Primers suitable for the amplification of the gene encoding the class 1 outer membrane protein of Neisseria meningitidis by the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) were designed from published DNA sequences and used to study the gene in eight meningococcal strains of different serogroup, serotype and subtype. At high annealing stringency one product, shown to correspond to the class 1 protein gene, was amplified from each strain. For three strains an additional smaller product, provisionally identified as the gene encoding the class 3 outer membrane protein, was amplified at lower annealing stringencies. Nucleotide sequence analysis of the PCR products corresponding to the class 1 proteins established the differences in the primary structure of the proteins between each of the subtypes and other outer-membrane proteins from Neisseria spp. These differences impose constraints on possible structural models of these proteins. Most amino acid sequence variation occurred in two domains of between 8 and 17 amino acids; there was an additional region which varied mainly between classes of outer membrane protein and there were nine conserved regions. Using appropriate primers it was possible to distinguish between class 1 outer membrane protein genes from strains of different subtypes by the PCR.