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A mutant exhibiting decreased cytotoxic activity toward INT-407 intestinal epithelial cells and carrying a mutation in the rtx gene cluster that consists of rtxCA and rtxBDE operons was screened from a library of V. vulnificus mutants. The functions of the rtxA gene, assessed by constructing an isogenic mutant and evaluating its phenotypic changes, demonstrated that RtxA is essential for the virulence of V. vulnificus in mice as well as in tissue cultures.