The Bordetella pertussis wlb locus (wlbpe, formerly bpl) is required for the biosynthesis of a trisaccharide that, when attached to the B. pertussis lipopolysaccharide (LPS) core (band B), generates band A LPS. The equivalent loci in Bordetella bronchiseptica (wlbbr) and Bordetella parapertussis (wlbpa) were identified and cloned. The wlbbr and wlbpa loci differ from wlbpe in that they lack the insertion sequence that defines the right-hand terminus of wlbpe. Deletion of 12 kb of DNA containing the whole wlb locus (delta wlb) by allelic exchange in each of the three bordetellae had no effect on band B biosynthesis, whereas band A biosynthesis was prevented in B. pertussis and B. bronchiseptica. In B. bronchiseptica and B. parapertussis, delta wlb mutants also lacked O-antigen. Reintroduction of the wlbpe or wlbbr loci on a shuttle vector into the three delta wlb mutants restored the wild-type LPS phenotype in the B. pertussis and B. bronchiseptica mutants. In the case of B. parapertussis, which normally does not synthesize an apparent band A structure, introduction of the wlbpe or wlbbr loci now enabled the generation of band A. This suggests that the attachment point for band A trisaccharide on the LPS core is present in B. parapertussis, and further suggests that the wild-type wlbpa locus is not fully functional. Introduction of the wlbpa locus into the delta wlbpe, delta wlbbr and delta wlbpa mutants had interesting consequences. The B. bronchiseptica and B. parapertussis recipients were now able to biosynthesize O-antigen, but no band A was generated. In the B. pertussis recipient, a truncated band A was expressed consistent with a mutation in the wlbH gene, but on Western blotting the expression of a small amount of full-length band A was also seen. Evidence that the wlbHpa protein is not fully functional was provided by the failure of the wlbpa locus to fully complement a B. pertussis wlbH (delta wlbHpe) mutant. This was supported by DNA sequence data showing that a single amino acid, conserved between homologous proteins from a range of bacteria, is altered in the B. parapertussis WlbH protein.