Previous work from our laboratory has shown that cosmid clone pFVl00, containing a 26 kb insert, is able to restore O-antigen synthesis in serotype O5 rough mutants of Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Mobilization of pFV100 into two P. aeruginosa semi-rough (SR) mutants, AK14O1 and rd7513, resulted in O-antigen expression, indicating that pFV100 may contain an O-polymerase (rfc) gene. pFV.TK6, a subclone of pFVl00 that contains a 5.6 kb chromosomal insert, was able to complement O-antigen expression in these SR mutants. Mutagenesis of pFV.TK6 using Tn1000 exposed a 1.5 kb region that was essential for complementing O-antigen expression in AK14O1. A 2.0 kb Xhol-HindIII fragment, containing this region, was cloned into vector pUCP26 and the resulting plasmid called pFV.TK8. In Southern analysis of the 20 P aeruginosa serotypes using a probe generated from the 1.5 kb Xhol fragment of pFV.TK8, the rfc probe hybridized to a common fragment of the cross-reactive O2-O5-O16-O18-O20 serogroup, suggesting that these serotypes may share a common O-polymerase gene. In functional studies of the rfc gene, the PAOl (serotype O5) chromosomal rfc was mutated using a gene-replacement strategy. These knockout mutants expressed the SR lipopolysaccharide (LPS) phenotype, which indicated that they were no longer producing a functional O-polymerase enzyme. Nucleotide sequence analysis of the insert DNA of pFV.TK8 revealed one open reading frame (ORF), designated ORF48.9, which could code for a 48.9 kDa protein. In comparisons of the P. aeruginosa rfc nucleotide and amino acid sequences with DNA and protein databases, no significant homology was found. However, the deduced structure of the P. aeruginosa Rfc protein indicated that it is very hydrophobic and contains 11 putative membrane-spanning domains. Therefore, the predicted structure is similar to that of other reported Rfc proteins. Furthermore, comparison of the amino acid composition and codon usage of the P. aeruginosa Rfc with other Rfc proteins revealed significant similarity between them.