The bvg locus contains two genes, bvgA and bvgS, which control the expression of the virulence-associated genes in Bordetella species by a system similar to the two-component systems used by a variety of bacterial species to respond to environmental stimuli. We determined the nucleotide sequence of the bvg loci of Bordetella parapertussis and Bordetella bronchiseptica and compared them with the previously determined sequence of Bordetella pertussis. The nucleotide and amino acid sequences of the bvg loci of these species are well conserved in those regions coding for the protein domains which have putative kinase and DNA-binding activities. In marked contrast, the region of BvgS that codes for the protein domain with putative sensor activity shows a high degree of variability. In total, we find 198 base-pair changes in the bvg loci of B. parapertussis and B. bronchiseptica relative to the bvg locus of B. pertussis. One hundred and seventy-three of these base-pair changes are identical in B. parapertussis and B. bronchiseptica. This confirms our previous observation that B. parapertussis and B. bronchiseptica are more related to each other than to B. pertussis. We have mapped the mutations that cause phase changes in B. bronchiseptica and we have found that in three cases these are due to spontaneous deletions in the bvgS gene. The wild-type bvg locus present on a multicopy plasmid cannot complement avirulent derivatives of B. bronchiseptica to wild-type levels, but it can do so when the bvgA gene on the plasmid is inactivated. This suggests that hyperexpression of bvgA down-regulates the bvg system.