Coral bleaching is a disease that threatens coral reefs throughout the world. The disease is correlated with higher-than-normal seawater temperatures. Data have been reported showing that bleaching of the coral Oculina patagonica during the summer in the Mediterranean Sea is the result of an infection with Vibrio shiloi. The summer temperatures induce the expression of virulence factors in the pathogen. We report here that V. shiloi produces an extracellular superoxide dismutase (SOD) at 30 degrees C, but not at 16 degrees C. An SOD(-) mutant was avirulent. The mutant adhered to corals, penetrated into coral cells, multiplied intracellularly for a short time, and then died. These data support the hypothesis that SOD protects the intracellular V. shiloi from oxidative stress caused by the high concentration of oxygen produced by intracellular zooxanthellae photosynthesis.