An isolate of Renibacterium salmoninarum (strain MT 239) exhibiting reduced virulence in rainbow trout Oncorhynchus mykiss was tested for its ability to cause bacterial kidney disease (BKD) in chinook salmon Oncorhynchus tshawytscha, a salmonid species more susceptible to BKD. Juvenile chinook salmon were exposed to either 33209, the American Type Culture Collection type strain of R. salmoninarum, or to MT 239, by an intraperitoneal injection of 1 ?? 103 or 1 ?? 106 bacteria fish-1, or by a 24 h immersion in 1 ?? 105 or 1 ?? 107 bacteria ml-1. For 22 wk fish were held in 12??C water and monitored for mortality. Fish were sampled periodically for histological examination of kidney tissues. In contrast to fish exposed to the high dose of strain 33209 by either injection or immersion, none of the fish exposed to strain MT 239 by either route exhibited gross clinical signs or histopathological changes indicative of BKD. However, the MT 239 strain was detected by the direct fluorescent antibody technique in 4 fish that died up to 11 wk after the injection challenge and in 5 fish that died up to 20 wk after the immersion challenge. Viable MT 239 was isolated in culture from 3 fish that died up to 13 wk after the immersion challenge. Total mortality in groups injected with the high dose of strain MT 239 (12%) was also significantly lower (p < 0.05) than mortality in groups injected with strain 33209 (73%). These data indicate that the attenuated virulence observed with MT 239 in rainbow trout also occurs in a salmonid species highly susceptible to BKD. The reasons for the attenuated virulence of MT 239 were not determined but may be related to the reduced levels of the putative virulence protein p57 associated with this strain.