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A 15-kb region of Pseudomonas putida chromosomal DNA containing the mde operon and an upstream regulatory gene (mdeR) has been cloned and sequenced. The mde operon contains two structural genes involved in L-methionine degradative metabolism: the already-identified mdeA, which encodes L-methionine gamma-lyase (H. Inoue, K. Inagaki, M. Sugimoto, N. Esaki, K. Soda, and H. Tanaka. J. Biochem. (Tokyo) 117:1120-1125, 1995), and mdeB, which encodes a homologous protein to the homodimeric-type E1 component of pyruvate dehydrogenase complex. A rho-independent terminator was present just downstream of mdeB, and open reading frames corresponding to other components of alpha-keto acid dehydrogenase complex were not found. When MdeB was overproduced in Escherichia coli, the cell extract showed the E1 activity with high specificity for alpha-ketobutyrate rather than pyruvate. These results suggest that MdeB plays an important role in the metabolism of alpha-ketobutyrate produced by MdeA from L-methionine. Accordingly, mdeB encodes a novel E1 component, alpha-ketobutyrate dehydrogenase E1 component, of an unknown alpha-keto acid dehydrogenase complex in P. putida. In addition, we found that the mdeR gene was located on the opposite strand and began at 127 bp from the translational start site of mdeA. The mdeR gene product has been identified as a member of the leucine-responsive regulatory protein (Lrp) family and revealed to act as an essential positive regulator allowing the expression of the mdeAB operon.