Vibrio cholerae is a facultative intestinal pathogen that lives in aquatic environments, often in association with planktonic species. In the suckling mouse, oral inoculation with V. cholerae leads to intestinal colonization and symptoms of diarrheal disease. Results reported here indicate a role for the alternative sigma factor, RpoS, in intestinal colonization in this model of cholera. We constructed within rpoS multiple independent mutations which consistently resulted in a fivefold decrease in colonization ability as assessed by competition assays. These mutations had no detectable effect on the in vitro growth of V. cholerae in a rich medium. The occurrence of spontaneous suppressor mutations potentially required for viability of rpoS strains was ruled out by determination of the frequency of insertional inactivation of rpoS in comparison to two other nonessential loci. Finally, both the in vitro and in vivo mutant phenotypes of rpoS strains were fully complemented by providing rpoS in trans or by allelic reversion, indicating that the observed decrease in colonization fitness was indeed due to the loss of functional RpoS.