Erwinia chrysanthemi, a phytopathogenic enterobacterium, secretes three proteases (PrtA, PrtB and PrtC) into the extracellular medium. The gene encoding the 50 kDa protease, prtA, was subcloned from a recombinant cosmid carrying a fragment of the E. chrysanthemi B374 chromosome. prtA was shown to be located immediately 3' to the structural genes for the other two extracellular proteases. The amino acid sequence of PrtA, as predicted from the prtA nucleotide sequence, showed a high level of homology with a family of metalloproteases that are all secreted via a signal peptide-independent pathway, including PrtB and PrtC of E. chrysanthemi B374, PrtC of E. chrysanthemi EC16, PrtSM of Serratia marcescens and AprA of Pseudomonas aeruginosa. PrtA secretion requires the E. chrysanthemi protease secretion factors PrtD, PrtE and PrtF. The secretion signal of PrtA is near to the carboxy-terminal end of the protein, as was previously shown to be the case for PrtB and PrtSM and for Escherichia coli alpha-hemolysin. The C-termini of these four proteins do not show extensive primary sequence homology, but PrtA, PrtB and PrtSM each have a potential amphipathic alpha-helix located close to the C-terminus.