The Yersinia genus includes human and animal pathogens (plague, enterocolitis). The fine structures of the endotoxin lipids A of seven strains of Yersinia enterocolitica, Yersinia ruckeri and Yersinia pestis were determined and compared using mass spectrometry. These lipids differed in secondary acylation at C-2' this was dodecanoic acid (C(12)) for two strains of Y. enterocolitica and Y. ruckeri, tetradecanoic acid (C(14)) in two other Y. enterocolitica and hexadecenoic acid (C(161)) in Y. pestis. The enterocolitica lipids having a mass identical to that of Escherichia coli were found to be structurally different. The results supported the idea of a relation between membrane fluidity and environmental adaptability in Yersinia.