The Aeromonas hydrophila wb*(O34) gene cluster of strain AH-3 (serotype O34) was cloned and sequenced. This cluster contains genes necessary for the production of O34-antigen lipopolysaccharide (LPS) in A. hydrophila. We determined, using either mutation or sequence homology, roles for the majority of genes in the cluster by using the chemical O34-antigen LPS structure obtained for strain AH-3. The O34-antigen LPS export system has been shown to be a Wzy-dependent pathway typical of heteropolysaccharide pathways. Furthermore, the production of A. hydrophila O34-antigen LPS in Escherichia coli K-12 strains is dependent on incorporation of the Gne enzyme (UDP-N-acetylgalactosamine 4-epimerase) necessary for the formation of UDP-galactosamine in these strains. By using rapid amplification of cDNA ends we were able to identify a transcription start site upstream of the terminal wzz gene, which showed differential transcription depending on the growth temperature of the strain. The Wzz protein is able to regulate the O34-antigen LPS chain length. The differential expression of this protein at different temperatures, which was substantially greater at 20 degrees C than at 37 degrees C, explains the previously observed differential production of O34-antigen LPS and its correlation with the virulence of A. hydrophila serotype O34 strains.