Escherichia coli O157:H7 is a commensal organism in cattle, but it is a pathogen in humans. This differential expression of virulence suggests that specific virulence factors are regulated differently in human and bovine hosts. To test this hypothesis, relative real-time reverse transcription-PCR was used to relate the expression of several putative virulence genes (eae, espA, stx2, rfbE, ehxA, and iha) to that of the "housekeeping" gene gnd during natural human and experimental bovine infection with E. coli O157:H7. We examined these genes in fecal samples from eight humans and four calves, iha and espA were significantly more expressed in bovine infections. rfbE and ehxA appeared to be more highly expressed in human infections, though these differences did not achieve statistical significance. Our results support the hypothesis that some virulence-associated genes of O157:H7 are differentially expressed in a host-specific manner.