Current serotyping methods classify Pasteurella multocida into five capsular serogroups (serogroups A, B, D, E, and F) and 16 somatic serotypes (serotypes 1 to 16). In the present study, we have developed a multiplex PCR assay as a rapid alternative to the conventional capsular serotyping system. The serogroup-specific primers used in this assay were designed following identification, sequence determination, and analysis of the capsular biosynthetic loci of each capsular serogroup. The entire capsular biosynthetic loci of P. multocida A:1 (X-73) and B:2 (M1404) have been cloned and sequenced previously (J. Y. Chung, Y. M. Zhang, and B. Adler, FEMS Microbiol. Lett. 166:289-296, 1998; J. D. Boyce, J. Y. Chung, and B. Adler, Vet. Microbiol. 72:121-134, 2000). Nucleotide sequence analysis of the biosynthetic region (region 2) from each of the remaining three serogroups, serogroups D, E, and F, identified serogroup-specific regions and gave an indication of the capsular polysaccharide composition. The multiplex capsular PCR assay was highly specific, and its results, with the exception of those for some serogroup F strains, correlated well with conventional serotyping results. Sequence analysis of the strains that gave conflicting results confirmed the validity of the multiplex PCR and indicated that these strains were in fact capsular serogroup A. The multiplex PCR will clarify the distinction between closely related serogroups A and F and constitutes a rapid assay for the definitive classification of P. multocida capsular types.