Transposon mutagenesis, using IS50L::phoA(Tn-phoA), was performed in a K54/O4/H5 blood isolate of Escherichia coli (CP9), to generate a library of random mutants. Five hundred and twenty-six independent CP9 TnphoA mutants were isolated with active gene fusions to alkaline phosphatase. From this mutant library, eight capsule-deficient strains were detected and were found to have a single copy of TnphoA. Sixteen additional capsule deficient mutants with TnphoA inserts were subsequently obtained that did not possess active PhoA fusions. In conjunction with the initial eight capsule-deficient isolates we have defined genes on three different XbaI fragments as being involved in capsule production. Generalized transduction with the bacteriophage T4 established that these insertions were responsible for the loss of capsule and that they are linked. These capsule-deficient strains can be used to assess the pathogenic role of the K54 capsular polysaccharide.