The lipid and fatty acid compositions in nine obligate and facultative barophilic bacteria isolated from the intestinal contents of seven deep-sea fish were determined. Phospholipid compositions were simple, with phosphatidylethanolamine and phosphatidylglycerol predominating in all strains. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA; 22:6n-3), which has not been reported in procaryotes except for deep-sea bacteria, was found to be present in eight strains at a level of 8.1 to 21.5% of total fatty acids. In the other strain, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA; 20:5n-3) was present at a level of 31.5% of total fatty acids. Other fatty acids observed in all strains were typical of marine gram-negative bacteria. Subcultures from pouches prepared from intestinal contents of five deep-sea fish by the most-probable-number (MPN) method were analyzed for fatty acids, and all subcultures contained DHA and/or EPA. Accordingly, viable cell counts of bacteria containing DHA and EPA were estimated at a maximum of 1.3 x 10(sup8) and 2.4 x 10(sup8) cells per ml, respectively, and accounted for 14 and 30%, respectively, of the total cell counts in the intestinal contents of the deep-sea fish. In the case of 10 shallow-sea poikilothermic animals having bacterial populations of 1.1 x 10(sup6) to 1.9 x 10(sup9) CFU per ml in intestinal contents, no DHA was found in the 112 isolates examined, while production of EPA was found in 40 isolates from cold- and temperate-sea samples. These results suggest that DHA and EPA are involved in some adaptations of bacteria to low temperature and high pressure.