ColV plasmids have long been associated with the virulence of Escherichia coli, despite the fact that their namesake trait, ColV production, does not appear to contribute to virulence. Such plasmids or their associated sequences appear to be quite common among avian pathogenic E. coli (APEC) and are strongly linked to the virulence of these organisms. In the present study, a 180-kb ColV plasmid was sequenced and analyzed. This plasmid, pAPEC-02-ColV, possesses a 93-kb region containing several putative virulence traits, including iss, tsh, and four putative iron acquisition and transport systems. The iron acquisition and transport systems include those encoding aerobactin and salmochelin, the sit ABC iron transport system, and a putative iron transport system novel to APEC, eit. In order to determine the prevalence of the virulence-associated genes within this region among avian E. coli strains, 595 APEC and 199 avian commensal E. coli isolates were examined for genes of this region using PCR. Results indicate that genes contained within a portion of this putative virulence region are highly conserved among APEC and that the genes of this region occur significantly more often in APEC than in avian commensal E. coli. The region of pAPEC-O2-ColV containing genes that are highly prevalent among APEC appears to be a distinguishing trait of APEC strains.