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The low-Ca2+ response is a multicomponent virulence regulon of the human-pathogenic yersiniae in which 12 known virulence genes are coordinately regulated in response to environmental cues of temperature, Ca2+, and nucleotides such as ATP. Yersinial growth also is regulated, with full growth yield being permitted at 37 degrees C only if Ca2+ or a nucleotide is present. In this study, we constructed and characterized a mutant Yersinia pestis specifically defective in the gene encoding the V antigen, one of the virulence genes of the low-Ca2+ response. An in-frame internal deletion-insertion mutation was made by removing bases 51 through 645 of lcrV and inserting 61 new bases. The altered lcrV was introduced into the low-Ca2+ response plasmid in Y. pestis by allelic exchange, and the resulting mutant was characterized for its two-dimensional protein profiles, growth, expression of an operon fusion to another low-Ca2+ response virulence operon, and virulence in mice. The mutant had lost its Ca2+ and nucleotide requirement for growth, showed diminished expression of Ca2(+)-and nucleotide-regulated virulence genes, and was avirulent in mice. The mutation could be complemented with respect to the growth property by supplying native V antigen operon sequences in trans in high copy number (on pBR322). Partial complementation of the growth defect and almost complete complementation of the virulence defect were seen with a lower-copy-number complementing replicon (a pACYC184 derivative). The data are consistent with the interpretation that V antigen is bifunctional, with a role in regulating growth and expression of low-Ca2+ response virulence genes in addition to its putative role as a secreted virulence protein.