The ornithine decarboxylase (ODC) gene of the human respiratory fungal pathogen, Coccidioides immitis (Ci) was cloned, sequenced, chromosome-mapped, and expressed in Escherichia coli (Ec). The genomic, cDNA and translated sequences are presented. Transformation of an ODC null mutant strain of Ec (EWH 319) with the Ci ODC gene was conducted to confirm function of the protein encoded by the fungal gene. Activity of the enzyme by the bacterial transformant was inhibited by 1, 4-diamino-2-butanone (DAB), a known inhibitor of eukaryotic ODC. Temporal expression of the Ci ODC gene during the parasitic cell cycle is constitutive, based on results of RT PCR. However, results of enzyme activity assays of cell homogenates obtained at different stages of parasitic cell development in vitro showed that the functional protein is present only during periods of isotropic growth and segmentation, and these morphogenetic events can be arrested by the addition of DAB. The observed absence of a difference in steady-state mRNA transcript amounts, and the developmentally correlated variation in levels of enzyme activity, suggest a translational or post-translational mechanism of ODC regulation. Since no PEST sequence was detected in the Ci ODC, enzyme regulation by programmed protein degradation as reported for many other eukaryotic ODCs may not occur in this case. ODC activity appears to play a key role in the morphogenesis of Ci, and the enzyme could be a rational target for therapy of disseminated coccidioidomycosis.