Three new open reading frames, mraZ, mraW and mraR (also called ftsL), were revealed by DNA sequencing immediately upstream of gene pbpB in the dcw cluster of Escherichia coli. We have found that mraW and mraZ are active genes, coding for two proteins with relative molecular masses of 34 800 and 17 300, respectively. MraW is a cytoplasmic protein that under overproduction condition is also loosely bound to the membrane. Soluble MraW was purified up to 90% by a single high performance electrophoresis (HPEC) step from an extract of an overproducing strain. The protein exhibits a S-adenosyl-dependent methyltransferase activity on membrane-located substrates.