Whooping cough still represents a major health problem, despite the use of effective vaccines for several decades. Being classically a typical childhood disease, whooping cough in young adults is now more common than it used to be, suggesting that protection after vaccination wanes during adolescence. As an alternative to the current vaccines, we wish to develop live attenuated vaccines to be delivered by the nasal route, such as to mimic the natural route of infection and to induce long lasting immunity. Bordetella pertussis, the etiological agent of whooping cough, produces a number of virulence factors, including toxins. Its recently determined genome sequence makes it now possible to apply functional genomics, such as transcriptomics and systematic knock-out mutagenesis. The expression of most known B. pertussis virulence genes is controlled by the two-component system BvgA/S. DNA microarray analyses have led to the identification of novel genes in the BvgA/S regulon, some of which are activated by BvgA/S and others are repressed by BvgA/S. In addition, some genes appear to be differentially modulated by nicotinic acid and MgSO4, both known to modulate the expression of BvgA/S-regulated genes. Among others, the functional genomics approach has uncovered two strongly BvgA/S-activated genes, named hotA and hotB (for ‘homolog of toxin'), the products of which show high sequence similarities to pertussis toxin subunits. The identification of the full array of virulence factors, as well as an integrated understanding of the bacterial physiology should allow us to design attenuated B. pertussis strains useful for intranasal vaccination. A first generation of attenuated strains has already shown full protection in mice after a single intranasal administration. Such strains may also serve as vaccine carriers for heterologous antigens, in order to vaccinate against several different pathogens simultaneously.