Molecular studies of bacterial virulence are enhanced by expression of recombinant DNA during infection to allow complementation of mutants and expression of reporter proteins in vivo. For highly pathogenic bacteria, such as Yersinia pestis, these studies are currently limited because deliberate introduction of antibiotic resistance is restricted to those few which are not human treatment options. In this work, we report the development of alternatives to antibiotics as tools for host-pathogen research during Yersinia pestis infections focusing on the diaminopimelic acid (DAP) pathway, a requirement for cell wall synthesis in eubacteria. We generated a mutation in the dapA-nlpB(dapX) operon of Yersinia pestis KIM D27 and CO92 which eliminated the expression of both genes. The resulting strains were auxotrophic for diaminopimelic acid and this phenotype was complemented in trans by expressing dapA in single and multi-copy. In vivo, we found that plasmids derived from the p15a replicon were cured without selection, while selection for DAP enhanced stability without detectable loss of any of the three resident virulence plasmids. The dapAX mutation rendered Y. pestis avirulent in mouse models of bubonic and septicemic plague which could be complemented when dapAX was inserted in single or multi-copy, restoring development of disease that was indistinguishable from the wild type parent strain. We further identified a high level, constitutive promoter in Y. pestis that could be used to drive expression of fluorescent reporters in dapAX strains that had minimal impact to virulence in mouse models while enabling sensitive detection of bacteria during infection. Thus, diaminopimelic acid selection for single or multi-copy genetic systems in Yersinia pestis offers an improved alternative to antibiotics for in vivo studies that causes minimal disruption to virulence.