Plasma desorption mass spectrometry has recently been used with success to characterize native, underivatized Re- to Rc-type endotoxins in terms of their constituent lipopolysaccharides. The spectra give masses for the major molecular species of lipopolysaccharide present from which their probable compositions could be inferred using the overall composition determined by chemical analyses. Moreover, the relative intensities of the signals are roughly proportional to the abundance of their corresponding molecular species. Native Rc-, Rb-, and Ra-type enterobacterial endotoxins with 5-10 core sugar units have been rendered amenable to plasma-desorption mass spectrometry analysis by improvement in their solubility and the use of cellobiose as an additive. The spectra of four Salmonella and Escherichia endotoxin preparations demonstrated heterogeneity in acylation and phosphorylation. Since these sources of heterogeneity are critical for many biological activities, the spectra underline the need to define the composition of each preparation of endotoxin used in structure-function studies.