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Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) samples isolated from a parent and two antibiotic-hypersusceptible mutant strains of Escherichia coli were analyzed for polycation affinity and level of binding. Purified salts of the LPSs from the parent strain, UB1005, and from one of the mutant strains, DC1, bound similar amounts of sodium and magnesium, but the samples from the second mutant strain, DC2, had significantly greater amounts of counterions bound per phosphate than did the other two isolates. The 31P nuclear magnetic resonance spectra indicated that, compared with LPS from the parental strain, the sample from strain DC1 was similar but the DC2 sample contained fewer diphosphodiester and more diphosphomonoester groups. Motion within the lipid A head group regions of the magnesium salts of the three isolates was dramatically different, as revealed by an electron spin resonance probe. The binding of the cations to the LPS aggregates was measured by the displacement of this cationic spin probe from the LPS samples. The polycations polymyxin, gentamicin, and spermine displaced more probe from samples of the two mutant strains than from that of the parental strain. The sample from the most antibiotic-susceptible strain, DC2, had the highest affinity for all the polyvalent cations tested. The results indicate that antibiotic hypersusceptibility can result from at least two distinct alterations in LPS structure. The decrease in diphosphodiesters and increase in diphosphomonoesters in the LPS of the DC2 sample resulted in more acidic phosphate moieties and a more antibiotic-susceptible cell. In contrast, the alterations in the LPS of DC1 that resulted in antibiotic hypersusceptibility of the cell were not in the phosphate substituents. In both mutants, however, hypersusceptibility resulted in an alteration in LPS structure that increased the affinity of the molecules for polycations.