Populations of surface-attached microorganisms comprising either single or multiple species are commonly referred to as biofilms. Using a simple assay for the initiation of biofilm formation (e.g. attachment to an abiotic surface) by Pseudomonas fluorescens strain WCS365, we have shown that: (i) P. fluorescens can form biofilms on an abiotic surface when grown on a range of nutrients; (ii) protein synthesis is required for the early events of biofilm formation; (iii) one (or more) extracytoplasmic protein plays a role in interactions with an abiotic surface; (iv) the osmolarity of the medium affects the ability of the cell to form biofilms. We have isolated transposon mutants defective for the initiation of biofilm formation, which we term surface attachment defective (sad ). Molecular analysis of the sad mutants revealed that the ClpP protein (a component of the cytoplasmic Clp protease) participates in biofilm formation in this organism. Our genetic analyses suggest that biofilm formation can proceed via multiple, convergent signalling pathways, which are regulated by various environmental signals. Finally, of the 24 sad mutants analysed in this study, only three had defects in genes of known function. This result suggests that our screen is uncovering novel aspects of bacterial physiology.