The primary site of infection for Bordetella bronchiseptica, Bordetella pertussis and Bordetella parapertussis is the ciliated respiratory epithelium. Previous studies have implicated adherence of bacteria to cilia, induction of mucus production, induction of ciliostasis and damage to the ciliated epithelium in Bordetella pathogenesis. This paper describes the use of an air-interface organ culture system using canine tracheal tissue infected with B. bronchiseptica to assess the temporal relationship between these pathologies. Ciliostasis occurs very early during the host tissue-pathogen interaction, before mucus production and obvious signs of epithelial damage occur. A B. bronchiseptica bvg mutant does not colonize the organ culture model, induce ciliostasis or cause damage to the epithelial cell layer, but it does induce similar amounts of mucus release as does infection by wild-type bacteria. The authors propose that ciliostasis is a key early event during the B. bronchiseptica-host tissue interaction that abrogates the muco-ciliary defences of the host tissue, renders it susceptible to colonization by the bacteria and allows subsequent damage to the epithelium. The organ culture model described offers a physiologically relevant tool with which to characterize the molecular basis for interactions between Bordetella and its primary site of infection, the ciliated respiratory epithelium.