Strains of Pseudomonas aeruginosa causing chronic pulmonary infections in patients with cystic fibrosis are known to convert to a mucoid form in vivo characterized by the production of the exopolysaccharide alginate. The alginate production trait is not stable, and mucoid strains frequently convert back to the nonmucoid form in vitro. The DNA involved in these spontaneous alginate conversions, referred to as algS, was shown here to map near hisI and pru markers on the chromosome of strain FRD, an isolate from a cystic fibrosis patient. Although cloning algS+ by trans-complementation was not possible, a clone (pJF5) was isolated that caused algS mutants to convert to the Alg+ phenotype at detectable frequencies (approximately 0.1%) in vitro. Gene replacement with transposon-marked pJF5 followed by mapping studies showed that pJF5 contained DNA transducibly close to algS in the chromosome. Another clone was identified called pJF15 which did contain algS+ from mucoid P. aeruginosa. The plasmid-borne algS+ locus could not complement spontaneous algS mutations in trans, but its cis-acting activity was readily observed after gene replacement with the algS mutant chromosome by using an adjacent transposon as the selectable marker. pJF15 also contained a trans-active gene called algT+ in addition to the cis-active gene algS+. The algT gene was localized on pJF15 by using deletion mapping and transposon mutagenesis. By using gene replacement, algT::Tn501 mutants of P. aeruginosa were constructed which were shown to be complemented in trans by pJF15. Both algS and algT were located on a DNA fragment approximately 3 kilobases in size. The algS gene may be a genetic switch which regulates the process of alginate conversion.