The sequences of the O-antigen and capsule gene clusters of the virulent Aeromonas hydrophila strain PPD134/91 were determined. The O-antigen gene cluster is 17,296 bp long and comprises 17 genes. Seven pathway genes for the synthesis of rhamnose and mannose, six transferase genes, one O unit flippase gene, and one O-antigen chain length determinant gene were identified by amino acid sequence similarity. PCR and Southern blot analysis were performed to survey the distribution of these 17 genes among 11 A. hydrophila strains of different serotypes. A. hydrophila PPD134/91 might belong to serotype O:18, as represented by JCM3980; it contained all the same O-antigen genes as JCM3980 (97 to 100% similarity at the DNA and amino acid levels). The capsule gene cluster of A. hydrophila PPD134/91 is 17,562 bp long and includes 13 genes, which were assembled into three distinct regions similar to those of the group II capsule gene cluster of Escherichia coli and other bacteria. Regions I and III contained four and two capsule transport genes, respectively. Region II had five genes which were highly similar to capsule synthesis pathway genes found in other bacteria. Both the purified O-antigen and capsular polysaccharides increased the ability of the avirulent A. hydrophila strain PPD35/85 to survive in naïve tilapia serum. However, the purified surface polysaccharides had no inhibitory effect on the adhesion of A. hydrophila PPD134/91 to carp epithelial cells.