Difficulties with induction and cultivation of L-forms, particularly those derived from Gram positive parent cells, have constrained to some degree the ability to evaluate the pathogenicity of these morphotypes. Induction of L-forms of Lactococcus garvieae was undertaken using either charcoal or inactivated horse serum media supplemented with ampicillin, benzylpenicillin or erythromycin, the drug of choice for treatment of infections in rainbow trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss, (Walbaum), and NaCl as an osmotic stabiliser. Lysozyme treated cells could be cultured in a cell wall deficient state using media consisting of charcoal, NaCl and either ampicillin or benzylpenicillin. The influence of some amino acids for induction of L-forms was assessed by disc diffusion and combined interaction. Analysis of variance of colony counts indicated that the amino acids glycine, DL-methionine, L-threonine and L-serine (P < 0.03), and the presence of charcoal were beneficial and that inactivated horse serum was detrimental to L-form development. Electron microscopy revealed that the cell wall of L- forms was missing and this cell had a greatly expanded volume compared to parent cells. Electrophoresis of whole cell proteins showed some variation of electropherotype between parent and L-form cells. L-forms expressed greater quantities of proteins with molecular mass of 36 and 66 kDa and parent cells contained greater quantities of proteins of molecular mass 29, 43 and 60 kDa. Additional proteins of molecular mass 32, 44 and 53 kDa were present in L- form extracts, and in parent cells of 34, 38, 40, 42, 85 and 123 kDa which may represent cell wall associated proteins or alterations in expression due to different growth rates. Intraperitoneal challenge of rainbow trout with L- forms failed to produce overt infection even in immune-suppressed fish, but L-forms were shown by indirect fluorescent antibody test to remain in kidney tissue. Fish were susceptible to infection when challenged with parent cells of L. garvieae.