Pseudomonas aeruginosa produces extracellular DNA which functions as a cell-to-cell interconnecting matrix component in biofilms. Comparison of extracellular DNA and chromosomal DNA by the use of polymerase chain reaction and Southern analysis suggested that the extracellular DNA is similar to whole-genome DNA. Evidence that the extracellular DNA in P. aeruginosa biofilms and cultures is generated via lysis of a subpopulation of the bacteria was obtained through experiments where extracellular beta-galactosidase released from lacZ-containing P. aeruginosa strains was assessed. Experiments with the wild type and lasIrhlI, pqsA, pqsL and fliMpilA mutants indicated that the extracellular DNA is generated via a mechanism which is dependent on acyl homoserine lactone and Pseudomonas quinolone signalling, as well as on flagella and type IV pili. Microscopic investigation of flow chamber-grown wild-type P. aeruginosa biofilms stained with different DNA stains suggested that the extracellular DNA is located primarily in the stalks of mushroom-shaped multicellular structures, with a high concentration especially in the outer part of the stalks forming a border between the stalk-forming bacteria and the cap-forming bacteria. Biofilms formed by lasIrhlI, pqsA and fliMpilA mutants contained less extracellular DNA than biofilms formed by the wild type, and the mutant biofilms were more susceptible to treatment with sodium dodecyl sulphate than the wild-type biofilm.