The type-specific polysaccharide capsule of group B streptococcus (GBS) is thought to be an important factor in the pathogenesis of disease. We used an acutely instrumented piglet model to assess the hemodynamic effects of rapid infusions of two heat-killed GBS type lb strains isolated from the spinal fluid of an infant with late-onset meningitis and from the vaginal culture of his mother. These strains expressed different amounts of capsule, as determined by buoyant density centrifugation and electron micrographs, and they produced different hemodynamic effects in the piglets. The mother's strain, which had a smaller capsule, caused significantly higher increases in pulmonary artery pressure and vascular resistance than did the infant's strain, which had a larger capsule. Transposon mutants were then made from the infant's isolate to further study the role of capsule in pulmonary hypertension. Two mutants lacking detectable capsular type-specific polysaccharide were compared with the original isolate and with an isogenic mutant containing tran-sposons but having a large capsule. The nonencapsulated mutants caused significantly higher changes in pulmonary artery pressure and resistance than did the encapsulated strains. Pulmonary hypertension may play a role in the pathophysiology of GBS sepsis, but the presence of a large capsule may partially cloak the hemodynamically active component(s) of the bacteria. The lower initial host response to heavily encapsulated GBS may play a role in pathogenesis by helping the organisms avoid host defense mechanisms. © 1992 International Pediatric Research Foundation, Inc.