Structural elucidation of the lipopolysaccharide (LPS) of Haemophilus influenzae, strain Rd, a capsule-deficient type d strain, has been achieved by using high-field NMR techniques and electrospray ionization-mass spectrometry (ESI-MS) on delipidated LPS and core oligosaccharide samples. It was found that this organism expresses heterogeneous populations of LPS of which the oligosaccharide (OS) epitopes are subject to phase variation. ESI-MS of O-deacylated LPS revealed a series of related structures differing in the number of hexose residues linked to a conserved inner-core element, L-alpha-D-Hepp-(1-->2)-L-alpha-D-Hepp-(1-->3)-[beta-D-Glcp- (1-->4)-]- L-alpha-D-Hepp-(1-->5)-alpha-Kdo, and the degree of phosphorylation. The structures of the major LPS glycoforms containing three (two Glc and one Gal), four (two Glc and two Gal) and five (two Glc, two Gal and one GalNAc) hexoses were substituted by both phosphocholine (PCho) and phosphoethanolamine (PEtn) and were determined in detail. In the major glycoform, Hex3, a lactose unit, beta-D-Galp-(1-->4)-beta-D-Glcp, is attached at the O-2 position of the terminal heptose of the inner-core element. The Hex4 glycoform contains the PK epitope, alpha-D-Galp-(1-->4)-beta-D-Galp-(1-->4)-beta-D-Glcp while in the Hex5 glycoform, this OS is elongated by the addition of a terminal beta-D-GalpNAc residue, giving the P antigen, beta-D-GalpNAc-(1-->3)-alpha-D-Galp-(1-->4)-beta-D-Galp-(1-->4)-D-Glc p. The fully extended LPS glycoform (Hex5) has the following structure. [see text] The structural data provide the first definitive evidence demonstrating the expression of a globotetraose OS epitope, the P antigen, in LPS of H. influenzae. It is noteworthy that the molecular environment in which PCho units are found differs from that observed in an Rd- derived mutant strain (RM.118-28) [Risberg, A., Schweda, E. K. H. & Jansson, P-E. (1997) Eur. J. Biochem. 243, 701-707].