Two Leishmania membrane glycoconjugates, gp63 and lipophosphoglycan, have been implicated in parasite attachment and uptake into the host macrophage. Moreover, recent data suggest that parasite virulence is associated with high expression of gp63. In this study we have surveyed gp63 gene copy number, in addition to the level of expression of gp63 mRNA and protein in several Leishmania major isolates, as well as virulent and avirulent strains and clones. The highest level of gp63 expression was found in the avirulent cloned line LRC-L119.3G7, which expresses about a 15-fold higher level of gp63 RNA and protein than the virulent cloned line LRC-L137/7/V121, suggesting that large amounts of gp63 are not sufficient for infectivity and do not correlate with virulence. L119.3G7 has eight copies of the gp63 gene compared to five copies in the virulent cloned line V121 and its parental virulent isolate LRC-L137. A series of avirulent clones derived from LRC-L137 also had five copies of the gene, suggesting that gp63 copy number is maintained among closely related parasites. Different virulent isolates of L. major from different geographic regions exhibited six copies of the gp63 gene. The variation in total gene copy number is due to different numbers of the tandemly repeated gp63 isogene in different strains. Our data show that there is wide variability between strains of L. major in the copy number of gp63 genes as well as in the amount of RNA and protein expressed.