We have cloned a 13 kb Escherichia coli DNA fragment which complemented the rfe mutation to recover the biosynthesis of E. coli O9 polysaccharide. Using Tn5 insertion inactivation, the rfe gene was localized at the 1.5 kb HindIII-EcoRI region flanking the rho gene. We constructed an rfe-deficient E. coli K-12 mutant by site-directed inactivation using a DNA fragment of the cloned 1.5 kb rfe gene. This also confirmed the presence of the rfe gene in the 1.5 kb region. By simultaneous introduction of both the rfe plasmid and the plasmid of our previously cloned E. coli O9 rfb into this rfe mutant, we succeeded in achieving in vivo reconstitution of O9 polysaccharide biosynthesis. From sequence analysis of the rfe gene, a putative promoter followed by an open reading frame (ORF) was identified downstream of the rho gene. This ORF coincided with the position of the rfe gene determined by Tn5 analysis and site-directed mutagenesis. Furthermore, we identified the rff genes in the 10.5 kb DNA flanking the rfe gene. We recognized at least two functional domains on this cloned rff region. Region I complemented a newly found K-12 rff mutant, A238, to synthesize the enterobacterial common antigen (ECA). Deletion of region II resulted in the synthesis of ECAs with shorter sugar chains. When the 10.5 kb rff genes of the plasmid were inactivated by either deletion or Tn5 insertion, the plasmid lost its ability to give rise to transformants of the rfe mutants.