Inductively coupled plasma emission spectroscopy was used to quantitate the metal cations bound to outer and cytoplasmic membranes and to extracted lipopolysaccharide from several Escherichia coli K12 strains. The outer membrane was found to be enriched in both calcium and magnesium relative to the cytoplasmic membrane. Both membranes contained significant levels of iron, aluminum, and zinc. The multivalent cation content of the lipopolysaccharide resembled that of the intact outer membrane. Lipopolysaccharide extracted from wild-type k12 strains contained higher levels of Mg than Ca regardless of the growth medium, but the medium used for growth did affect the relative amounts of bound Mg as well as the levels of the minor cations iron, aluminum, and zinc. In contrast, lipopolysaccharide isolated from a deep rough mutant strain, D21f2, contained more Ca than Mg. Electrodialysis of lipopolysaccharide from wild-type k12 strains removed 1 mol of Mg per mol of lipopolysaccharide but did not significantly affect the level of other bound metal ions. Dialysis of lipopolysaccharide against sodium (ethylenedinitrilo)tetraacetate removed most of the Mg and Ca, resulting in a sodium salt. The equimolar replacement of divalent cations with sodium in the sodium salt resulted in a net loss of counterion change. The sodium salt was dialyzed against either tris(hydroxymethyl)aminomethane hydrochloride, CaCl2, MgCl2, or TbCl3, and the resulting lipopolysaccharide salts were analyzed for their ionic composition. It was shown that tris(hydroxymethyl)aminomethane and Ca can replace some but not all of the Na bound to the sodium salt, but all of the other multivalent cations tested replaced Na, resulting in uniform lipopolysaccharide salts. Lipopolysaccharide isolated from the deep rough mutant strain D21f2 was also converted into a sodium salt. Relative to the wild-type lipopolysaccharide, Na was able to neutralize the anionic charge to a greater extent in the mutant lipopolysaccharide. Our results suggest that the loss of specific groups in the core region of the lipopolysaccharide from the mutant strain results in a more open structure that allows the binding of larger cations and of more monovalent cations.