It has been postulated that phenotypic variation in the relative expression of two chemically distinct types of lipopolysaccharide (LPS), a serotype-specific LPS (B-band) and a common antigen LPS (A-band) in Pseudomonas aeruginosa is an important mechanism enabling this opportunistic pathogen to alter its surface characteristics to mediate adhesion and to survive under extreme conditions. To further investigate this, the relative expression levels of the two distinct types of LPS in P. aeruginosa PAO1 were investigated with cells grown in a chemostat at different dissolved oxygen tensions (pO(2)). The A-band LPS was constitutively expressed as pO(2) was increased from nearly zero to 350 % of air saturation. In contrast, the B-band LPS showed a remarkable increase with increased pO(2). Almost no B-band LPS was found in cells grown at a pO(2) of less than 3 % of air saturation. Electron microscopic examination of cells revealed increased formation of membrane vesicles (MVs) on the surface of P. aeruginosa PAO1 under oxygen stress conditions. The toxicity of the supernatant of P. aeruginosa cultures to the growth of a hybridoma cell line significantly increased in samples taken from oxygen-stressed steady-state cultures. Furthermore, studies of adhesion in a continuous-flow biofilm culture revealed an increased adhesiveness for hydrophilic surfaces in P. aeruginosa PAO1 grown at a higher pO(2). The oxygen-dependent alterations of cell-surface components and properties observed in this work provide a possible explanation for the emergence of P. aeruginosa lacking the B-band LPS in chronically infected cystic fibrosis patients. The results are also useful for understanding the processes involved in the formation of MVs in P. aeruginosa.