Intestinal epithelial cells are an important site of the host's interaction with enteroinvasive bacteria. Genes in the chromosomally encoded Salmonella pathogenicity island 2 (SPI 2) that encodes a type III secretion system and genes on the virulence plasmid pSDL2 of Salmonella enteritica serovar Dublin (spv genes) are thought to be important for Salmonella dublin survival in host cells. We hypothesized that genes in those loci may be important also for prolonged Salmonella growth and the induction of apoptosis induced by Salmonella in human intestinal epithelial cells. HT-29 human intestinal epithelial cells were infected with wild-type S. dublin or isogenic mutants deficient in the expression of spv genes or with SPI 2 locus mutations. Neither the spv nor the SPI 2 mutations affected bacterial entry into epithelial cells or intracellular proliferation of Salmonella during the initial 8 h after infection. However, at later periods, bacteria with mutations in the SPI 2 locus or in the spv locus compared to wild-type bacteria, manifested a marked decrease in intracellular proliferation and a different distribution pattern of bacteria within infected cells. Epithelial cell apoptosis was markedly increased in response to infection with wild-type, but not the mutant Salmonella. However, apoptosis of epithelial cells infected with wild-type S. dublin was delayed for approximately 28 h after bacterial entry. Apoptosis was preceded by caspase 3 activation, which was also delayed for approximately 24 h after infection. Despite its late onset, the cellular commitment to apoptosis was determined in the early period after infection as inhibition of bacterial protein synthesis during the first 6 h after epithelial cell infection with wild-type S. dublin, but not at later times, inhibited the induction of apoptosis. These studies indicate that genes in the SPI 2 and the spv loci are crucial for prolonged bacterial growth in intestinal epithelial cells. In addition to their influence on intracellular proliferation of Salmonella, genes in those loci determine the ultimate fate of infected epithelial cells with respect to caspase 3 activation and undergoing death by apoptosis.