Four genes of Chlamydia psittaci strain guinea pig inclusion conjunctivitis (GPIC), whose predicted products are highly homologous to structural and regulatory components of a contact-dependent or type III secretion apparatus, were isolated. Related to genes present in several animal and plant bacterial pathogens, these genes may represent a section of a previously undetected chromosomal virulence locus analogous to several recently described virulence-associated type III secretion loci. The existence of contact-dependent secretion in Chlamydia strongly suggests that these bacteria use pathogenic mechanisms that are similar to those of other intracellular bacterial pathogens. Unlike other intracellular bacteria, however, chlamydiae are metabolically inactive extracellularly and only become capable of global protein synthesis several hours after infection. This implies that chlamydial contact-dependent secretion is only active from within, uniquely after the bacteria have been internalized by eukaryotic cells. The possible role(s) of this pathway in chlamydial pathogenesis are discussed.