Curie-point pyrolysis (Py)-mass spectrometry has been used to differentiate 19 microorganisms by Gram type on the basis of the methyl esters of their fatty acid distribution. The mass spectra of gram-negative microorganisms were characterized by the presence of palmitoleic acid (C(inf16:1)) and oleic acid (C(inf18:1)), as well as a higher abundance of palmitic acid (C(inf16:0)) than pentadecanoic acid (C(inf15:0)). For gram-positive microorganisms, a signal of branched C(inf15:0) (isoC(inf15:0) and/or anteisoC(inf15:0)) more intense than that of palmitic acid was observed in the mass spectra. Principal components analysis of these mass spectral data segregated the microorganisms investigated in this study into three discrete clusters that correlated to their gram reactions and pathogenicities. Further tandem mass spectrometric analysis demonstrated that the nature of the C(inf15:0) fatty acid isomer (branched or normal) present in the mass spectrum of each microorganism was important for achieving the classification into three clusters.