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(16:1)) 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.