Two monoclonal antibodies (FT14 and FT2F11) directed against the lipopolysaccharide (LPS) of Francisella tularensis were produced for use in tests to detect the organism in environmental samples and clinical specimens. The specificity of the antibodies was determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and immunoblotting. Both antibodies detected LPS from F. tularensis by ELISA, but only one antibody, FT14, was serologically active in an immunoblot. Treatment of the LPS with detergents prior to ELISA eliminated its binding to FT2F11 but not FT14. Qualitatively, both antibodies detected 10 different strains of F. tularensis by ELISA, but quantitatively, FT14 gave a detectable reaction with 10(3) organisms, whereas FT2F11 was able to detect only 10(5) organisms. FT14 did not cross-react with LPS from a range of other gram-negative species of bacteria, whereas FT2F11 cross-reacted against Vibrio cholerae LPS. Neither antibody showed cross-reactions when entire gram-negative organisms were used as antigens. In a competition ELISA, the two monoclonal antibodies were shown to compete for different epitopes. FT14 was strongly inhibited by purified O side chain from F. tularensis LPS, but FT2F11 was only weakly inhibited. It was inferred from those results that FT14 is directed against the O side chain and that FT2F11 is directed against the core.