The tagatose 6-phosphate pathway gene cluster (lacABCD) encoding galactose-6-phosphate isomerase, tagatose-6-phosphate kinase, and tagatose-1,6-diphosphate aldolase of Lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis MG1820 has been characterized by cloning, nucleotide sequence analysis, and enzyme assays. Transcription studies showed that the four tagatose 6-phosphate pathway genes are the first genes of the lactose-inducible lactose-phosphotransferase operon consisting of the lacABCDFEGX genes. Using a T7 expression system, it could be shown that the lacA, lacB, lacC, and lacD genes code for proteins with apparent molecular masses of 15, 19, 33, and 36 kDa, respectively. Cell-free extracts of induced and noninduced Escherichia coli cells expressing the lacABCD genes were used to determine the functions of the encoded proteins. Expression of both lacA and lacB was required to obtain galactose-6-phosphate isomerase activity. The lacC gene codes for tagatose-6-phosphate kinase, the deduced amino sequence of which is similar to that of E. coli Pfk-2 phosphofructokinase, and Staphylococcus aureus LacC protein. The tagatose-1,6-diphosphate aldolase is encoded by the lacD gene, and its deduced primary sequence, which is homologous to that of the S. aureus LacD protein, predicts an amino acid composition which is virtually identical to that of the previously purified L. lactis E8 tagatose-1,6-diphosphate aldolase.