The suppressor mutation, named sfhC21, that allows Escherichia coli ftsH null mutant cells to survive was found to be an allele of fabZ encoding R-3-hydroxyacyl-ACP dehydrase, involved in a key step of fatty acid biosynthesis, and appears to upregulate the dehydrase. The ftsH1(Ts) mutation increased the amount of lipopolysaccharide at 42 degrees C. This was accompanied by a dramatic increase in the amount of UDP-3-O-(R-3-hydroxymyristoyl)-N-acetylglucosamine deacetylase [the IpxC (envA) gene product] involved in the committed step of lipid A biosynthesis. Pulse-chase experiments and in vitro assays with purified components showed that FtsH, the AAA-type membrane-bound metalloprotease, degrades the deacetylase. Genetic evidence also indicated that the FtsH protease activity for the deacetylase might be affected when acyl-ACP pools were altered. The biosynthesis of phospholipids and the lipid A moiety of lipopolysaccharide, both of which derive their fatty acyl chains from the same R-3-hydroxyacyl-ACP pool, is regulated by FtsH.