The role of Staphylococcus aureus and coagulase-negative staphylococcal exosecretions in bovine udder infection was tested by monitoring the cows' response to in vivo inoculation of bacterial exosecretions into udder quarters. Twenty Israeli-Holstein dairy cows were included in the study; two or three of the udder quarters of each cow were intracisternally inoculated with 0.04-0.05 mg/quarter (total proteins) of the various sterile bacterial exosecretions in a sterile pyrogen-free saline. Each udder was inoculated with two or three different bacterial exosecretions or placebo (Columbia Broth). Cows were monitored for 96 h post-inoculation for rectal temperature, heart and respiratory rates, alimentary tract activity (rumen contraction), udder temperature, pain, oedema and udder size. Milk samples were examined bacteriologically and for somatic cell count, N-acetyl-D-glucosaminidase (NAGase) activity and somatic cell differentiation. No enterotoxins (β-G) or toxic shock syndrome toxin-1 were detected in response to any of the bacteria tested. Control quarters or those inoculated with Columbia Broth, showed similar NAGase and somatic cell count values throughout the experiment. Twelve of the 18 strains tested, induced inflammation in the inoculated quarters while six did not. Of the 12 strains causing local inflammation, only six were found significantly different from the control and were considered as high response (group 1). The other six that caused a local inflammation did not differ significantly from the control, and were considered to be moderate response (group 2). The six S. aureus isolates that did not cause an inflammatory response were considered to have low response (group 3). In all quarters inoculated with S. aureus bacterial exosecretions belonging to groups 1 and 2, the polymorphonuclear cells and macrophages were proportionally increased while CD4+ and CD8+ T-lymphocyte populations decreased. One-dimensional NuPAGE (7%) Tris-acetate gel electrophoresisof the bacterial exosecretions revealed four different bands appearing between 36 and 31 kDa, marked from top to bottom as A, B, C and D. An association was found between the combinations of expressed bands and the cow responses: the majority ofthe cases could be linked to the expression of bands B and C.