Genes on an 8 kb region common to the virulence plasmids of several serovars of Salmonella are sufficient to replace the entire plasmid in enabling systemic infection in animal models. This virulence region encompasses five genes which previously have been designated with different names from each investigating laboratory. A common nomenclature has been devised for the five genes, i.e. spv for salmonella plasmid virulence. The first gene, spvR, encodes a positive activator for the following four genes, spvABCD. DNA sequence analysis of the spv genes from Salmonella typhimurium, Salmonella dublin, and Salmonella choleraesuis demonstrated extremely high conservation of the DNA and amino acid sequences. The spv genes are induced at stationary phase and in carbon-poor media, and optimal expression is dependent on the katF locus. The virulence functions of the spv genes are not known, but these genes may increase the growth rate of salmonellae in host cells and affect the interaction of salmonellae with the host immune system.