In N. gonorrhoeae, the expression of pilus and opacity (Op) proteins can be switched on and off and a single cell apparently has a whole repertoire of genes to express many serologically distinguishable protein types. We describe the isolation of several different Op genes and of nonexpressing gene equivalents, all derived from isogenic gonococcal variants. In the E. coli host, Op proteins identical with those made in the respective N. gonorrhoeae strain are produced. The Op genes map near the pilus expression locus. Genomic blotting experiments with an Op gene probe reveal complex hybridization patterns but little heterogeneity among the genes of Op variants. It appears that colonial variation involving the Op protein of N. gonorrhoeae is based on minor sequence alterations, in contrast to the pilus variation system, in which changes in the expression can be evoked by substantial genomic rearrangements.