Seven extended-spectrum beta-lactamases related to TEM and four enzymes derived from SHV-1 were transferred to a common Escherichia coli host so that the activity of a variety of beta-lactams could be tested in a uniform genetic environment. For most derivatives, penicillinase activity was 10% or less than that of strains making TEM-1, TEM-2, or SHV-1 beta-lactamase, suggesting that reduced catalytic efficiency accompanied the broader substrate spectrum. Despite this deficit, resistance to aztreonam, carumonam, cefdinir, cefepime, cefixime, cefmenoxime, cefotaxime, cefotiam, cefpirome, cefpodoxime, ceftazidime, ceftibuten, ceftizoxime, ceftriaxone, cefuroxime, and E1040 was enhanced. For strains producing TEM-type enzymes, however, MICs of carumonam, cefepime, cefmenoxime, cefotiam, cefpirome, and ceftibuten were 8 micrograms/ml or less. Susceptibilities of cefmetazole, cefotetan, cefoxitin, flomoxef, imipenem, meropenem, moxalactam, temocillin, FCE 22101, and Sch 34343 were unaffected. FCE 22101, imipenem, meropenem, and Sch 34343 were inhibitory for all strains at 1 microgram/ml or less. In E. coli an OmpF- porin mutation in combination with an extended-spectrum beta-lactamase enhanced resistance to many of these agents, but generally by only fourfold. Hyperproduction of chromosomal AmpC beta-lactamase increased resistance to 7-alpha-methoxy beta-lactams but not that to temocillin. When tested at 8 micrograms/ml, clavulanate was more potent than sulbactam or tazobactam in overcoming resistance to ampicillin, while cefoperazone-sulbactam was more active than ticarcillin-clavulanate or piperacillin-tazobactam, especially against TEM-type extended-spectrum beta-lactamases.