In Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium, purine nucleotides and thiamine are synthesized by a branched pathway. The last known common intermediate, aminoimidazole ribonucleotide (AIR), is formed from formylglycinamidine ribonucleotide (FGAM) and ATP by AIR synthetase, encoded by the purI gene in S. enterica. Reduced flux through the first five steps of de novo purine synthesis results in a requirement for purines but not necessarily thiamine. To examine the relationship between the purine and thiamine biosynthetic pathways, purI mutants were made (J. L. Zilles and D. M. Downs, Genetics 143:37-44, 1996). Unexpectedly, some mutant purI alleles (R35C/E57G and K31N/A50G/L218R) allowed growth on minimal medium but resulted in thiamine auxotrophy when exogenous purines were supplied. To explain the biochemical basis for this phenotype, the R35C/E57G mutant PurI protein was purified and characterized kinetically. The K(m) of the mutant enzyme for FGAM was unchanged relative to the wild-type enzyme, but the V(max) was decreased 2.5-fold. The K(m) for ATP of the mutant enzyme was 13-fold increased. Genetic analysis determined that reduced flux through the purine pathway prevented PurI activity in the mutant strain, and purR null mutations suppressed this defect. The data are consistent with the hypothesis that an increased FGAM concentration has the ability to compensate for the lower affinity of the mutant PurI protein for ATP.