Lactic acid bacteria (LAB) are widely used for the industrial production of fermented dairy products and form a group of related low-GC-content gram-positive bacteria. The major species used in dairy manufacturing are Lactobacillus, Lactococcus, Streptococcus, and Leuconostoc. Traditionally most are applied as starter cultures for dairy fermentations or used as probiotic cultures, delivered in dairy vehicles. The appearance of the genomes of Lactococcus lactis, Bidifobacterium longum, Lactobacillus plantarum, L. johnsonii, L. acidophilus, 2 strains of Streptococcus thermophilus, and pending completion of many draft genomic sequences, is now promoting in-depth investigation into the comparative genetic content of LAB. Moreover, whole-genome transcriptional arrays are quickly revealing critical genes/operons that are coordinately expressed and the impact of environmental factors on expression of multiple gene sets. Comparative genomics between multiple genomes is providing insights into genes that are important in metabolic, physiological, and functional roles for different LAB in the environments they inhabit, ranging from the gastrointestinal tract to milk and acidified dairy products.