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In the gap between two closely linked flagellar gene clusters on the Escherichia coli and Salmonella typhimurium chromosomes (at about 42 to 43 min on the E. coli map), we found an open reading frame whose sequence suggested that it encoded an alpha-amylase; the deduced amino acid sequences in the two species were 87% identical. The strongest similarities to other alpha-amylases were to the excreted liquefying alpha-amylases of bacilli, with > 40% amino acid identity; the N-terminal sequence of the mature bacillar protein (after signal peptide cleavage) aligned with the N-terminal sequence of the E. coli or S. typhimurium protein (without assuming signal peptide cleavage). Minicell experiments identified the product of the E. coli gene as a 56-kDa protein, in agreement with the size predicted from the sequence. The protein was retained by spheroplasts rather than being released with the periplasmic fraction; cells transformed with plasmids containing the gene did not digest extracellular starch unless they were lysed; and the protein, when overproduced, was found in the soluble fraction. We conclude that the protein is cytoplasmic, as predicted by its sequence. The purified protein rapidly digested amylose, starch, amylopectin, and maltodextrins of size G6 or larger; it also digested glycogen, but much more slowly. It was specific for the alpha-anomeric linkage, being unable to digest cellulose. The principal products of starch digestion included maltotriose and maltotetraose as well as maltose, verifying that the protein was an alpha-amylase rather than a beta-amylase. The newly discovered gene has been named amyA. The natural physiological role of the AmyA protein is not yet evident.