Streptococcus mutans GS-5 and IB1600 adapted to growth in acidic environments in continuous culture at slow (generation time = 8.3 h) or fast (generation time = 2.4 h) rates of growth in complex medium with a restricted glucose supply. The extent of adaptation was indicated by changes in minimum pH values attained by harvested cells suspended in dense suspensions with excess glucose and by increased levels of ATPase activity assayed in permeabilized cells. Also, adapted cells better withstood potentially lethal acidification. Cells harvested from cultures growing at pH values close to 5 reduced suspension pH to lower values than cells from cultures maintained at pH 7. Cells from pH 6 cultures were intermediate. The IB1600 strain had a higher level of constitutive acid resistance than the GS-5 strain and also was better able to adapt to growth in acidified media. Both had less adaptive capacity than Enterococcus hirae ATCC 9790. Adaptation occurred rapidly, mainly within a single generation in continuous culture, while deadaptation occurred more slowly over multiple generations. The capacity of S. mutans to adapt to acid conditions is likely to be important in the ecology of dental plaque and also for the cariogenicity of the organism.