The contribution of gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase (GGT) to Campylobacter jejuni virulence and colonization of the avian gut has been investigated. The presence of the ggt gene in C. jejuni strains directly correlated with the expression of GGT activity as measured by cleavage and transfer of the gamma-glutamyl moiety. Inactivation of the monocistronic ggt gene in C. jejuni strain 81116 resulted in isogenic mutants with undetectable GGT activity; nevertheless, these mutants grew normally in vitro. However, the mutants had increased motility, a 5.4-fold higher invasion efficiency into INT407 cells in vitro and increased resistance to hydrogen peroxide stress. Moreover, the apoptosis-inducing activity of the ggt mutant was significantly lower than that of the parental strain. In vivo studies showed that, although GGT activity was not required for initial colonization of 1-day-old chicks, the enzyme was required for persistent colonization of the avian gut.