We previously identified two surface-exposed Mycoplasma arthritidis protein antigens, designated MAA1 and MAA2, that may be involved in cytadherence. Since adherence to host tissues is an important first step in most bacterial infections, we suggest that MAA1 and MAA2 may be virulence factors for M. arthritidis. In order to provide evidence for such a role, we conducted a series of experiments in which rats were actively immunized with each of these proteins purified from sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gels or passively immunized with poly- or monoclonal antibodies against MAA1 and MAA2. In each case, immunity against MAA1 and MAA2 conferred at least partial protection against M. arthritidis-induced disease. The greatest protection was achieved by passive immunization with monoclonal antibody A9a, directed against a surface-exposed epitope of putative adhesin MAA1. Because protective immunity in most bacterial infections is directed against major virulence factors, these results suggest that MAA1 and MAA2 may play a role in the pathogenesis of M. arthritidis-induced arthritis of rats, possibly by mediating initial colonization of joint tissues.