O-Acetylation is a common decoration on endotoxins derived from many Gram-negative bacterial species, and it has been shown to be instrumental ( e. g. in Salmonella typhimurium) in determining the final tertiary structure of the endotoxin and the immunogenicity of the molecule. Structural heterogeneity of endotoxins produced by mucosal pathogens such as Neisseria meningitidis is determined by decorations on the heptose inner core, including O-acetylation of the terminal N-acetylglucosamine ( GlcNAc) attached to HepII. In this report, we show that O-acetylation of the meningococcal lipooligosaccharide (LOS) inner core has an important role in determining inner core assembly and immunotype expression. The gene encoding the LOS O-acetyltransferase, lot3, was identified by homology to NodX from Rhizobium leguminosarum. Inactivation of lot3 in strain NMB resulted in the loss of the O-acetyl group located at the C-3 position of the terminal GlcNAc of the LOS inner core. Inactivation of either lot3 or lgtG, which encodes the HepII glucosyltransferase, did not result in the appearance of the O-3-linked phosphoethanolamine ( PEA) groups on the LOS inner core. Construction of a double mutant in which both lot3 and lgtG were inactivated resulted in the appearance of O-3-linked PEA groups on the LOS inner core. In conclusion, O-acetylation status of the terminal GlcNAc of the alpha-chain of the meningococcal LOS inner core is an important determinant for the appearance or exclusion of the O-3-linked PEA group on the LOS inner core and contributes to LOS structural diversity. O-Acetylation also likely influences resistance to complement-mediated lysis and may be important in LOS conjugate vaccine design.