Members of the bacterial genus Francisella are highly virulent and infectious pathogens. New models to study Francisella pathogenesis in evolutionarily distinct species are needed to provide comparative insight, as the mechanisms of host resistance and pathogen virulence are not well understood. We took advantage of the recent discovery of a novel species of Francisella to establish a zebrafish/Francisella comparative model of pathogenesis and host immune response. Adult zebraflsh were susceptible to acute Francisella-induced disease and suffered mortality in a dose-dependent manner. Using immunohistochemical analysis, we localized bacterial antigens primarily to lymphoid tissues and livers of zebraflsh following infection by intraperitoneal injection, which corresponded to regions of local cellular necrosis. Francisella sp. bacteria replicated rapidly in these tissues beginning 12 h postinfection, and bacterial titers rose steadily, leveled off, and then decreased by 7 days postinfection. Zebraflsh mounted a significant tissue-specific proinflammatory response to infection as measured by the upregulation of interleukin-lβ (IL-1β), gamma interferon, and tumor necrosis factor alpha mRNA beginning by 6 h postinfection and persisting for up to 7 days postinfection. In addition, exposure of zebraflsh to heat-killed bacteria demonstrated that the significant induction of IL-β was highly specific to live bacteria. Taken together, the pathology and immune response to acute Francisella infection in zebraflsh share many features with those in mammals, highlighting the usefulness of this new model system for addressing both general and specific questions about Francisella host-pathogen interactions via an evolutionary approach. Copyright © 2009, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.