A stable high-copy-number plasmid pSYL105 containing the Alcaligenes eutrophus polyhydroxyalkanoic acid (PHA) biosynthesis genes was constructed. This plasmid was transferred to seven Escherichia coli strains (K12, B, W, XL1-Blue, JM109, DH5 alpha, and HB101), which were subsequently compared for their ability to synthesize and accumulate poly-(3-hydroxybutyric acid) (PH B). Growth of recombinant cells and PHB synthesis were investigated in detail in Luria-Bertani (LB) medium containing 20 g/L glucose. Cell growth, the rate of PHB synthesis, the extent of PHB accumulation, the amount of glucose utilized, and the amount of acetate formed varied from one strain to another. XL1-Blue (pSYL105) and B (pSYL105) synthesized PHB at the fastest rate, which was ca. 0.2 g PHB/g true cell mass-h, and produced PHB up to 6-7 g/L. The yields of cell mass, true cell mass, and PHB varied considerably among the strains. The PHB yield of XL1-Blue (pSYL105) in LB plus 20 g/L glucose was as high as 0.369 g PHB/g glucose. Strains W (pSYL105) and K12 (pSYL105) accumulated the least amount of PHB with the lowest PHB yield at the lowest synthesis rate. JM109 (pSYL105) accumulated PHB to the highest extent (85.6%) with relatively low true cell mass (0.77 g/L). Considerable filamentation of cells accumulating PHB was observed for all strains except for K12 and W, which seemed to be due either to the overexpression of the foreign PHA biosynthesis enzymes or to the accumulation of PHB. (C) 1994 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.