Three murine monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) were produced by fusion of P3X63-Ag8.653 myeloma cells and splenocytes of a mouse immunized with heat-attenuated (20 min, 80 degrees C) Salmonella typhimurium cells. MAbs 5A5 and 5B2 were of the immunoglobulin M (IgM) class, while MAb 4A8 was IgG2a. All possessed the kappa light chains. The MAbs were specific to the lipopolysaccharide (LPS) O-5 antigen of Salmonella B serogroup, as determined by electrophoresis followed by immunoblotting. All MAbs recognized the same epitope, as determined by an additive enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), although IgM MAbs exhibited higher avidity than the IgG MAb. ELISA analyses revealed that all three MAbs reacted with S. typhimurium (LPS O:1, 4, 5, and 12) while failing to recognize S. typhimurium var. copenhagen (LPS O:1, 4, and 12). The MAbs reacted equally with live and heat-attenuated Salmonella B serovars containing LPS O-5 antigen. The ability of the MAbs to detect live bacterial cells was further confirmed by transmission electron microscopy. Treatment of bacteria with cholic acid and extremely low pH did not affect antibody binding to S. typhimurium. However, when S. typhimurium cells were exposed to alkaline conditions prior to reaction with all three MAbs, no binding was observed. The use of MAbs to discriminate between S. typhimurium and S. typhimurium var. copenhagen in meat samples was investigated.