In Escherichia coli the coenzyme pyridoxal 5'-phosphate (PLP) is synthesised de novo by a pathway that is thought to involve the condensation of 4-(phosphohydroxy)-L-threonine and 1-deoxy-D-xylulose, catalysed by the enzymes PdxA and PdxJ, to form either pyridoxine (vitamin B6) or pyridoxine 5'-phosphate (PNP). Here we show that incubation of PdxJ with PdxA, 4-(phosphohydroxy)-L-threonine, NAD and 1-deoxy-D-xylulose-5-phosphate, but not 1-deoxy-D-xylulose, results in the formation of PNP. The PNP formed was characterised by (i) cochromatography with an authentic standard, (ii) conversion to pyridoxine by alkaline phosphatase treatment, and (iii) UV and fluorescence spectroscopy. Furthermore, when [2-(14)C]1-deoxy-D-xylulose-5-phosphate was used as a substrate, the radioactivity was incorporated into PNP. These results clarify the previously unknown role of PdxJ in the de novo PLP biosynthetic pathway. The sugar used as substrate by PdxJ is 1-deoxy-D-xylulose-5-phosphate rather than the previously assumed 1-deoxy-D-xylulose. The first vitamin B6 vitamer synthesised is PNP, and not pyridoxine.