Vibrio harveyi VIB 645, which is very pathogenic towards salmonids and produces extracellular product with a high titer of hemolytic activity towards fish erythrocytes, was found to contain two closely related hemolysin genes (designated vhhA and vhhB), whereas the majority of strains examined (11 of 13) carried only a single hemolysin gene. Both genes from VIB 645 were cloned and sequenced. The open reading frames (ORFs) of vhhA and vhhB shared a high level of identity (98.8%) and were predicted to encode identical polypeptides comprising 418 amino acid residues. The VHH protein shows homology to the lecithinase of V. mimicus and V. cholerae. Transformants of Escherichia coli containing the ORF of either vhhA or vhhB displayed weak hemolytic activity in rainbow trout blood agar. The hemolytic activity was very high when the ORF of vhhB was cloned in E. coli together with the native promoter. Surprisingly, the level of vhh-specific RNA transcript produced by VIB 645 was found to be very low. We conclude that the hemolytic phenotype of VIB 645 is not due to increased expression of one or both copies of the vhh gene.