Abstract Recent studies identified strains of Salmonella that induce encephalopathies in calves exposed to stressful situations. In order to cause neurologic signs (such as ataxia, head tilt, and partial blindness), the strain must be able to cross the blood–brain barrier (BBB). One possible way is through the break down of tight junctions, which regulate the permeability of the BBB and can be weakened by enzymes such as collagenases. Salmonella and other Gram-negative bacteria contain a collagenase gene ( clg) that is silenced in vitro but inducibly expressed in vivo. We hypothesized that the neuropathic strains of Salmonella express clg in response to neuroendocrine factors in the host and that the expressed collagenase perturbs the BBB allowing for CNS invasion by Salmonella. Our in vitro results revealed that clg is derepressed in serum obtained from stressed cattle. Derepression is relegated to the neuropathic Salmonella strains. In vivo studies indicated that clg expression is required for neuropathogenicity and that pharmacologic maintenance of the BBB prevents both the Salmonella invasion into the brain and the resulting neurologic signs. These studies identify a host-induced Salmonella collagenase that facilitates neuropathogenicity at the level of the BBB.