In vivo activation of Klebsiella aerogenes urease, a nickel-containing enzyme, requires the presence of functional UreD, UreF, and UreG accessory proteins and is further facilitated by UreE. These accessory proteins are proposed to be involved in metallocenter assembly (M. H. Lee, S. B. Mulrooney, M. J. Renner, Y. Markowicz, and R. P. Hausinger, J. Bacteriol. 174:4324-4330, 1992). A series of three UreD-urease apoprotein complexes are present in cells that express ureD at high levels, and these complexes are thought to be essential for in vivo activation of the enzyme (I.-S. Park, M. B. Carr, and R. P. Hausinger, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 91:3233-3237, 1994). In this study, we describe the effect of accessory gene deletions on urease complex formation. The ureE, ureF, and ureG gene products were found not to be required for formation of the UreD-urease complexes; however, the complexes from the ureF deletion mutant exhibited delayed elution during size exclusion chromatography. Because these last complexes were of typical UreD-urease sizes according to native gel electrophoretic analysis, we propose that UreF alters the conformation of the UreD-urease complexes. The same studies revealed the presence of an additional series of urease apoprotein complexes present only in cells containing ureD, ureF, and ureG, along with the urease subunit genes. These new complexes were shown to contain urease, UreD, UreF, and UreG. We propose that the UreD-UreF-UreG-urease apoprotein complexes represent the activation-competent form of urease apoprotein in the cell.