Porphyromonas gingivalis is a gram-negative, black-pigmented anaerobe that has been associated with advanced periodontal disease. The genome of P. gingivalis has the potential to produce a number of virulence determinants including proteases, hemagglutinins, hemolysin, invasion-associated proteins, and products of the pathogenicity island ragAB; however, little is known about how their expression is controlled. Periodontal pockets experience a higher temperature during inflammation, and this elevated temperature may influence the pathogenicity of P. gingivalis by changing its patterns of gene expression. In this study, RNA has been isolated from cells of P. gingivalis grown to steady state at temperatures of 37, 39, and 41 degrees C under hemin excess conditions (pH 7.0) in a chemostat. The RNA was subjected to PCR amplification following reverse transcription, using various combinations of randomly selected oligonucleotide primers. Reproducible RNA fingerprints have been obtained; however, differences were demonstrated in the RNA profiles of cells grown at the three temperatures, indicating differences in gene expression. Several PCR fragments were isolated that appeared to represent temperature-regulated genes. The nucleotide sequence of one of these has been identified as part of the ragAB locus, which codes for both a 55-kDa immunodominant antigen (RagB) and a homologue of the family of TonB-linked outer membrane receptors (RagA). These data indicate that expression of ragAB may be modulated in response to changes in temperature and that this may suggest a mechanism of evading the host response in the inflamed periodontal pocket.