Bordetella bronchiseptica establishes respiratory tract infections in laboratory animals with high efficiency. Colonization persists for the life of the animal and infection is usually asymptomatic in immunocompetent hosts. We hypothesize that this reflects a balance between immunostimulatory events associated with infection and immunomodulatory events mediated by the bacteria. We have identified 15 loci that are part of a type III secretion apparatus in B. bronchiseptica and three secreted proteins. The functions of the type III secretion system were investigated by comparing the phenotypes of wild-type bacteria with two strains that are defective in type III secretion using in vivo and in vitro infection models. Type III secretion mutants were defective in long-term colonization of the trachea in immunocompetent mice. The mutants also elicited higher titres of anti-Bordetella antibodies upon infection compared with wild-type bacteria. Type III secretion mutants also showed increased lethal virulence in immunodeficient SCID-beige mice. These observations suggest that type III-secreted products of B. bronchiseptica interact with components of both innate and adaptive immune systems of the host. B. bronchiseptica induced apoptosis in macrophages in vitro and inflammatory cells in vivo and type III secretion was required for this process. Infection of an epithelial cell line with high numbers of wild type, but not type III deficient B. bronchiseptica resulted in rapid aggregation of NF-κB into large complexes in the cytoplasm. NF-κB aggregation was dependent on type III secretion and aggregated NF-κB did not respond to TNFα activation, suggesting B. bronchiseptica may modulate host immunity by inactivating NF-κB. Based on these in vivo and in vitro results, we hypothesize that the Bordetella type III secretion system functions to modulate host immune responses during infection.