To further understand the role of LPS in the pathogenesis of Francisella infection, we characterized murine infection with F. novicida, and compared immunobiological activities of F. novicida LPS and the LPS from F. tularensis live vaccine strain (LVS). F. novicida had a lower intradermal LD(50) in BALB/cByJ mice than F. tularensis LVS, and mice given a lethal F. novicida dose intraperitoneally died faster than those given the same lethal F. tularensis LVS dose. However, the pattern of in vivo dissemination was similar, and in vitro growth of both bacteria in bone marrow-derived macrophages was comparable. F. novicida LPS stimulated very modest in vitro proliferation of mouse splenocytes at high doses, but F. tularensis LVS LPS did not. Murine bone marrow macrophages treated in vitro with F. novicida LPS produced IL12 and TNF-alpha, but did not produce detectable interferon-gamma, IL10, or nitric oxide; in contrast, murine macrophages treated with F. tularensis LVS LPS produced none of these mediators. In contrast to clear differences in stimulation of proliferation and especially cytokines, both types of purified LPS stimulated early protection against lethal challenge of mice with F. tularensis LVS, but not against lethal challenge with F. novicida. Thus, although LPS recognition may not be a major factor in engendering protection, the ability of F. novicida LPS to stimulate the production of proinflammatory cytokines including TNF-alpha likely contributes to the increased virulence for mice of F. novicida compared to F. tularensis LVS.