We previously cloned the structural gene hdcA, which encodes the enzyme histidine decarboxylase (HDC; EC 126.96.36.199), from Lactobacillus 30a and found what appeared to be the start of a second gene 59 nucleotide (nt) downstream from the hdcA stop codon [Vanderslice et al., J. Biol. Chem. 32 (1986) 15186-15191]. Here we report the complete nt sequence of this second gene, which we have named hdcB, and show that it encodes a 20-kDa protein, HDCB, which was purified from Escherichia coli. The hdcA and hdcB genes together comprise an operon, the transcription from which is shown to be increased threefold by the presence of histidine in the growth medium. Western blots were used to quantitate the rise in concentrations of both gene products during histidine induction of the hdc operon. This increase was found to be proportional to the observed threefold increase in the concentration of the respective mRNAs. Transcription of the hdc operon in the mutant-3 strain of Lactobacillus 30a [Recsei and Snell, Biochemistry 12 (1973) 365-371] was shown to be constitutively 15-fold greater than in uninduced wild type cells and was unaffected by histidine. The transcription start point was defined as a guanine 73 nt 5' to the start codon of the hdcA gene. Of the transcripts initiated at this promoter, 15% include both hdcA and hdcB sequences, the remainder terminate in the intergenic region and thus encode only hdcA.