Binding of the complement inhibitor factor H (fH) to the surface of Neisseria meningitidis is critical for evasion of innate host defenses. The meningococcal vaccine candidate factor H-binding protein (fHbp) serves as an fH ligand. We prepared 16 recombinant fHbp natural sequence variants. By enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), the variants from a New Zealand epidemic strain (fHbp ID 14) and from an endemic United Kingdom strain (ID 15) showed 10-fold lower fH binding than a reference fHbp from an epidemic Norwegian strain (ID 1). By surface plasmon resonance, association rate constants (k(a)) for fHbp ID 14 and 15 were similar to those for ID 1, but dissociation rate constants (k(d)) were 4- to 10-fold higher than those for ID 1. To determine the effect of fH affinity on fHbp fitness, we prepared isogenic mutants of strain H44/76 that expressed fHbp ID 1, 14, or 15. By flow cytometry, mutants expressing fHbp ID 14 or 15 had lower fH binding than ID 1. When incubated in plasma or blood of nonimmune donors, all three mutants showed similar increases in CFU/ml. In contrast, an isogenic fHbp knockout mutant, which grew well in broth, was rapidly killed in plasma or blood. Thus, although fHbp expression was required for survival of strain H44/76 in blood or plasma, expression of two natural fHbp sequence variants with lower fH affinity had minimal or no effect on nonimmune clearance. One reason may be the high fH concentrations in normal serum, which favor saturation of fH binding to fHbp, even when dissociation rates varied over 10-fold.