Methionine aminopeptidase (MAP) catalyzes the removal of amino-terminal methionine from proteins. The Escherichia coli map gene encoding this enzyme was cloned; it consists of 264 codons and encodes a monomeric enzyme of 29,333 daltons. In vitro analyses with purified enzyme indicated that MAP is a metallo-oligopeptidase with absolute specificity for the amino-terminal methionine. The methionine residues from the amino-terminal end of the recombinant proteins interleukin-2 (Met-Ala-Pro-IL-2) and ricin A (Met-Ile-Phe-ricin A) could be removed either in vitro with purified MAP enzyme or in vivo in MAP-hyperproducing strains of E. coli. In vitro analyses of the substrate preference of the E. coli MAP indicated that the residues adjacent to the initiation methionine could significantly influence the methionine cleavage process. This conclusion is consistent, in general, with the deduced specificity of the enzyme based on the analysis of known amino-terminal sequences of intracellular proteins (S. Tsunasawa, J. W. Stewart, and F. Sherman, J. Biol. Chem. 260:5382-5391, 1985).