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The related family of virulence plasmids found in the three major pathogens of the genus Yersinia all have the ability to encode a set of outer membrane proteins. In Y. enterocolitica and Y. pseudotuberculosis, these proteins are major constituents of the outer membrane when their synthesis is fully induced. In contrast, they have been difficult to detect in Y. pestis. It has recently been established that Y. pestis does synthesize these proteins, but that they are rapidly degraded due to some activity determined by the 9.5-kilobase plasmid commonly found in Y. pestis strains. We show that mutations in the pla gene of this plasmid, which encodes both the plasminogen activator and coagulase activities, blocked this degradation. A cloned 1.4-kilobase DNA fragment carrying pla was also sufficient to cause degradation in the absence of the 9.5-kilobase plasmid.