The capacity of non-pathogenic enteric bacteria to induce a pro-inflammatory response is under debate in terms of its effect on the symbiosis between the mammalian host and its commensal gut microflora. Activation of NF-kappaB and induction of interleukin-8 (IL-8) and CCL-20 by the commensal Escherichia coli strain MG1655 were first studied in vitro in the human intestinal epithelial cell (IECs) lines HT29-19A and Caco-2, transfected or not with plasmids encoding dominant negative Toll-like receptor (TLR) 5 and myeloid differentiation factor-88 (MyD88) adaptor protein. The response of enterocytes in situ was then assessed using murine ileal biopsies mounted in Ussing chambers. Commensal E. coli induced NF-kappaB DNA binding, NF-kappaB transcriptional activity, CCL-20 expression, and IL-8 secretion in the human IEC lines. E. coli MG1655 flagellin was necessary and sufficient to trigger this pro-inflammatory pathway via its interaction with TLR5 and the subsequent recruitment of the adaptor protein MyD88. Following epithelial cell polarization, signaling could be induced by live E. coli and flagellin on the apical side of HT29-19A. The in vivo relevance of our findings was confirmed, because immunohistochemical staining of murine ileum demonstrated expression of TLR5 in the apical part of enterocytes in situ. Furthermore, flagellin added on the mucosal side of murine ileal biopsies mounted in Ussing chambers induced a basolateral production of KC, a functional murine homolog of human IL-8. These findings provide strong evidence that flagellin released by flagellated commensal bacteria in the intestinal lumen can induce a pro-inflammatory response in enterocytes in vivo.