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The gene that encodes 1,2-propanediol oxidoreductase (fucO) from Escherichia coli was sequenced. The reading frame specified a protein of 383 amino acids (including the N-terminal methionine), with an aggregate molecular weight of 40,642. The induction of fucO transcription, which occurred in the presence of fucose, was confirmed by Northern blot analysis. In E. coli, the primary fucO transcript was approximately 2.1 kilobases in length. The 5' end of the transcript began more than 0.7 kilobase upstream of the fucO start codon within or beyond the fucA gene. Propanediol oxidoreductase exhibited 41.7% identity with the iron-containing alcohol dehydrogenase II from Zymomonas mobilis and 39.5% identity with ADH4 from Saccharomyces cerevisiae. These three proteins did not share homology with either short-chain or long-chain zinc-containing alcohol dehydrogenase enzymes. We propose that these three unusual alcohol dehydrogenases define a new family of enzymes.