Listeria monocytogenes causes rhombencephalitis in humans and animals and also affects the fetus in utero, causing disseminated sepsis. In both instances, the infection occurs by the crossing of endothelial cells lining a physiological barrier, the blood-brain barrier or the transplacental barrier. In this study, the ability of L. monocytogenes wild-type EGD to invade human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) was evaluated using wild-type bacteria and isogenic Listeria mutants. Here, we show that invasion of HUVECs by L. monocytogenes is dependent on the expression of the internalin B gene product. This was demonstrated in several ways. First, L. monocytogenes strains lacking the inlB gene did not invade HUVECs. Secondly, avid invasion was obtained when a strain deleted for inlAB was complemented with a plasmid harbouring inlB only, whereas strains expressing inlA did not enter HUVECs. Thirdly, entry of wild-type EGD could be blocked effectively with antibodies to InlB. Fourthly, cell binding assays and flow cytometry with HUVECs showed binding of purified InlB, but not InlA, suggesting a tropism of InlB for this cell type. Finally, physical association of purified native InlB with the surface of non-invasive mutants dramatically increased their ability to invade HUVECs. In laser-scanning confocal microscopy, binding of InlB was observed as focal and localized patches on the cell surface of HUVECs. Qualitative examination of the entry process by scanning electron microscopy revealed that both wild-type EGD and a recombinant strain overexpressing only InlB enter HUVECs in a similar fashion. The entry process was polarized, involved single bacteria and occurred over the entire surface of endothelial cells.