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Ribonucleic acid (RNA)-rich extracts derived from the attenuated strain of Francisella tularensis (strain LVS) protected Swiss mice against lethal challenge with F. tularensis strain 425 but not against strain SCHU S4. No killed preparation, including an RNA-rich extract from SCHU S4 itself, offered protection against strain SCHU S4 in contrast to the high level of protection offered against this strain by vaccination with live strain LVS. The protective activity observed against strain 425 was sensitive to ribonuclease but not to Pronase. Protective activity is not a general property of bacterial RNA, since RNA-rich extracts from Staphylococcus aureus offered no protection against tularemia, although disc gel electrophoresis showed similar kinds and amounts of RNA in preparations form F. tularensis and S. aureus. Furthermore, inability to localize activity to a specific region in sucrose gradients suggests a structural rather than an informational role for the RNA in such extracts. RNA-rich extracts from F. tularensis but not from S. aureus were efficient inducers of F. tularensis opsonins in mouse serum, suggesting one mechanism by which such extracts confer protection.