Bacteria inhabit an impressive variety of ecological niches and must adapt constantly to changing environmental conditions. While numerous environmental signals have been examined for their effect on bacteria, the effects of mechanical forces such as shear stress and gravity have only been investigated to a limited extent. However, several important studies have demonstrated a key role for the environmental signals of low shear and/or microgravity in the regulation of bacterial gene expression, physiology, and pathogenesis [Chem. Rec. 1 (2001) 333; Appl. Microbiol. Biotechnol. 54 (2000) 33; Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 63 (1997) 4090; J. Ind. Microbiol. 18 (1997) 22; Curr. Microbiol. 34(4) (1997) 199; Appl. Microbiol. Biotechnol. 56(3-4) (2001) 384; Infect Immun. 68(6) (2000) 3147; Cell 109(7) (2002) 913; Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 68(11) (2002) 5408; Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A. 99(21) (2002) 13807]. The response of bacteria to these environmental signals, which are similar to those encountered during prokaryotic life cycles, may provide insight into bacterial adaptations to physiologically relevant conditions. This review focuses on the current and potential future research trends aimed at understanding the effect of the mechanical forces of low shear and microgravity analogues on different bacterial parameters. In addition, this review also discusses the use of microgravity technology to generate physiologically relevant human tissue models for research in bacterial pathogenesis.