Although pneumonic plague is the deadliest manifestation of disease caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, there is surprisingly little information on the cellular and molecular mechanisms responsible for Y. pestis-triggered pathology in the lung. Therefore, to understand the progression of this unique disease, we characterized an intranasal mouse model of primary pneumonic plague. Mice succumbed to a purulent multifocal severe exudative bronchopneumonia that closely resembles the disease observed in humans. Analyses revealed a strikingly biphasic syndrome, in which the infection begins with an antiinflammatory state in the first 24-36 h that rapidly progresses to a highly proinflammatory state by 48 h and death by 3 days. To assess the adaptation of Y. pestis to a mammalian environment, we used DNA microarray technology to analyze the transcriptional responses of the bacteria during interaction with the mouse lung. Included among the genes up-regulated in vivo are those comprising the yop-ysc type III secretion system and genes contained within the chromosomal pigmentation locus, validating the use of this technology to identify loci essential to the virulence of Y. pestis.