Poly[(R)-3-hydroxybutyric acid] (PHB) was produced at 37 degrees C by a recombinant Escherichia coli harboring the Alcaligenes eutrophus biosynthesis phb-CAB genes in Luria-Bertani media containing glucose at 10-30 g/l at different pH values and the time-dependent changes in the molecular mass of PHB were studied. PHB polymers accumulated within cells while glucose was present in the medium. The number-average molecular mass of PHB decreased with time during the course of PHB accumulation, and the values for PHB were markedly dependent on the cultivation conditions of the E. coli, ranging from 0.5 MDa to 20 MDa. Under specific conditions (pH 6.0), E. coli produced PHB with an extremely high molecular mass (20 MDa). It has been suggested that a chain-transfer agent is generated in E. coli cells during the accumulation of PHB.