Helicobacter pylori colonizes the human gastric mucosa and causes gastritis, ulceration, or gastric cancer. A previously uncharacterized region of the H. pylori genome was identified and sequenced. This region includes a putative operon containing three open reading frames termed gidA (1,866 bp), dapE (1,167 bp), and orf2 (753 bp); the gidA and dapE products are highly homologous to other bacterial proteins. In E. coli, dapE encodes N-succinyl-L-diaminopimelic acid desuccinylase, which catalyzes the hydrolysis of N-succinyl-L-diaminopimelic acid to L-diaminopimelic acid (L-DAP) and succinate. When wild-type H. pylori strains were transformed to select for dapE mutagenesis, mutants were present when plates were supplemented with DAP but not with lysine; orf2 mutants were selected without DAP supplementation. Consistent with the finding that GidA is essential in Escherichia coli, we were unable to obtain a gidA mutant in H. pylori despite evidence that insertional mutagenesis had occurred. The positions of gidA, dapE, and orf2 suggest that they form an operon, which was supported by slot blot RNA hybridization and reverse transcriptase PCR studies. The data imply that the H. pylori dapE mutant may be useful as a conditionally lethal vaccine.