The rff genes of Salmonella typhimurium include structural genes for enzymes involved in the conversion of UDP N-acetyl-D-glucosamine (UDP-GlcNAc) to UDP N-acetyl-D-mannosaminuronic acid (UDP-ManNAcA), the donor of ManNAcA residues in enterobacterial common antigen (ECA) synthesis. An rff mutation (rff-726) of Escherichia coli has been described (U. Meier and H. Mayer, J. Bacteriol. 163:756-762, 1985) that abolished ECA synthesis but which did not affect the synthesis of UDP-ManNAcA or any other components of ECA. The nature of the enzymatic defect resulting from the rff-726 lesion was investigated in the present study. The in vitro synthesis of GlcNAc-pyrophosphorylundecaprenol (lipid I), an early intermediate in ECA synthesis, was demonstrated by using membranes prepared from a mutant of E. coli possessing the rff-726 lesion. However, in vitro synthesis of the next lipid-linked intermediate in the biosynthetic sequence, ManNAcA-GlcNAc-pyrophosphorylundecaprenol (lipid II), was severely impaired. Transduction of wild-type rff genes into the mutant restored the ability to synthesize both lipid II and ECA as determined by in vitro assay and Western blot (immunoblot) analyses done with anti-ECA monoclonal antibody, respectively. Our results are consistent with the conclusion that the rff-726 mutation is located in the structural gene for the transferase that catalyzes the transfer of ManNAcA from UDP-ManNAcA to lipid I.