The products of the bvgAS locus coordinately regulate the expression of Bordetella virulence factors in response to environmental conditions. We have identified a phenotype in Bordetella bronchiseptica that is negatively controlled by bvg. Environmental signals which decrease (modulate) the expression of bvg-activated genes lead to flagellum production and motility in B. bronchiseptica. Wild-type (Bvg+) strains are motile and produce peritrichous flagella only in the presence of modulating signals, whereas Bvg- (delta bvgAS or delta bvgS) strains are motile in the absence of modulators. The bvgS-C3 mutation, which confers signal insensitivity and constitutive activation of positively controlled loci, eliminates the induction of motility and production of flagellar organelles. The response to environmental signals is conserved in a diverse set of clinical isolates of both B. bronchiseptica and B. avium, another motile Bordetella species; however, nicotinic acid induced motility only in B. bronchiseptica. Purification of flagellar filaments from B. bronchiseptica strains by differential centrifugation followed by CsCl equilibrium density gradient centrifugation revealed two classes of flagellins of Mr 35,000 and 40,000. A survey of clinical isolates identified only these two flagellin isotypes, and coexpression of the two forms was not detected in any strain. All B. avium strains tested expressed a 42,000-Mr flagellin. Amino acid sequence analysis of the two B. bronchiseptica flagellins revealed 100% identity in the N-terminal region and 80% identity with Salmonella typhimurium flagellin. Monoclonal antibody 15D8, which recognizes a conserved epitope in flagellins in members of the family Enterobacteriaceae, cross-reacted with flagellins from B. bronchiseptica and B. avium. Our results highlight the biphasic nature of the B. bronchiseptica bvg regulon and provide a preliminary characterization of the Bvg-regulated motility phenotype.