The Bacillus polymyxa CF43 lelA gene, expressing both sucrose and fructan hydrolase activities, was isolated from a genomic library of B. polymyxa screened in Bacillus subtilis. The gene was detected as expressing sucrose hydrolase activity; B. subtilis transformants did not secrete the lelA gene product (LelA) into the extracellular medium. A 1.7-kb DNA fragment sufficient for lelA expression in Escherichia coli was sequenced. It contains a 548-codon open reading frame. The deduced amino acid sequence shows 54% identity with mature B. subtilis levanase and is similar to other fructanases and sucrases (beta-D-fructosyltransferases). Multiple-sequence alignment of 14 of these proteins revealed several previously unreported features. LelA appears to be a 512-amino-acid polypeptide containing no canonical signal peptide. The hydrolytic activities of LelA on sucrose, levan, and inulin were compared with those of B. subtilis levanase and sucrase, confirming that LelA is indeed a fructanase. The lelA gene in the chromosome of B. polymyxa was disrupted with a chloramphenicol resistance gene (cat) by "inter-gramic" conjugation: the lelA::cat insertion on a mobilizable plasmid was transferred from an E. coli transformant to B. polymyxa CF43, and B. polymyxa transconjugants containing the lelA::cat construct replacing the wild-type lelA gene in their chromosomes were selected directly. The growth of the mutant strain on levan, inulin, and sucrose was not affected.