Even though secretion offers numerous advantages for the production of proteins in Escherichia coli, the expression of many heterologous proteins is severely limited by degradation in the periplasmic space. We found that mutations in rpoH, the RNA polymerase sigma factor responsible for heat shock protein synthesis, affect the stability of heterologous secreted proteins. A particularly dramatic increase in expression was further observed in rpoH degP double mutants. To minimize proteolytic degradation, we constructed a family of 25 isogenic strains deficient in all known cell envelope proteases (DegP, Protease III, Tsp(Prc), and OmpT), as well as the rpoH15 mutant allele, and characterized their growth in both shake flasks and fermentors. The availability of this set of strains permits the selection of a suitable host based on the optimal combination between the optimum reduction in protease activity and acceptable growth properties.