Abstract Clinical studies have shown that probiotics influence gastrointestinal motility, e.g. Escherichia coli Nissle 1917 (EcN) (Mutaflor®) proved to be at least as efficacious as lactulose and more potent than placebo in constipated patients. As the underlying mechanisms are not clarified, the effects of EcN culture supernatants on human colonic motility were assessed in vitro. Human colonic circular smooth muscle strips (n = 94, 17 patients) were isometrically examined in an organ bath and exposed to different concentrations of EcN supernatants. Contractility responses were recorded under (i) native conditions, (ii) electrical field stimulation (EFS), (iii) non-adrenergic non-cholinergic conditions, and (iv) enteric nerve blockade by tetrodotoxin (TTX). As concentrations of acetic acid were increased in EcN supernatants, contractility responses to acetic acid were additionally tested. EcN supernatants significantly increased the maximal tension forces both at low and high concentrations. Neither blockade of both adrenergic and cholinergic nerves nor application of TTX abolished these effects. EFS-induced contractility responses were not altered after exposure to EcN supernatants. Acetic acid elicited effects comparable to EcN supernatants only under TTX conditions. EcN supernatants modulate in vitro contractility of the human colon. As neither partial nor TTX blockade of enteric nerves abolished these effects, EcN supernatants appear to enhance colonic contractility by direct stimulation of smooth muscle cells. Active metabolites may include other substances than acetic acid, as acetic acid only partially resembled the effects elicited by EcN supernatants. The data provide a rationale for therapeutical application of probiotics in gastrointestinal motility disorders.