The enzyme L-ornithine N5-oxygenase catalyzes the hydroxylation of L-ornithine (L-Orn), which represents an early step in the biosynthesis of the peptidic moiety of the fluorescent siderophore pyoverdin in Pseudomonas aeruginosa. A gene bank of DNA from P. aeruginosa PAO1 (ATCC 15692) was constructed in the broad-host-range cosmid pLAFR3 and mobilized into the L-Orn N5-oxygenase-defective (pvdA) P. aeruginosa mutant PALS124. Screening for fluorescent transconjugants made it possible to identify the trans-complementing cosmid pPV4, which was able to restore pyoverdin synthesis and L-Orn N5-oxygenase activity in the pvdA mutant PALS124. The 17-kb PAO1 DNA insert of pPV4 contained at least two genetic determinants involved in pyoverdin synthesis, i.e., pvdA and pvdC4, as shown by complementation analysis of a set of mutants blocked in different steps of the pyoverdin biosynthetic pathway. Deletion analysis, subcloning, and transposon mutagenesis enabled us to locate the pvdA gene in a minimum DNA fragment of 1.7 kb flanked by two SphI restriction sites. Complementation of the pvdA mutation was under stringent iron control; both pyoverdin synthesis and L-Orn N5-oxygenase activity were undetectable in cells of the trans-complemented mutant which had been grown in the presence of 100 microM FeCl3. The entire nucleotide sequence of the pvdA gene, from which the primary structure of the encoded polypeptide was deduced, was determined. The pvdA structural gene is 1,278 bp; the cloned DNA fragment contains at the 5' end of the gene a putative ribosome-binding site but apparently lacks known promoterlike sequences. The P. aeruginosa L-Orn N5-oxygenase gene codes for a 426-amino-acid peptide with a predicted molecular mass of 47.7 kDa and an isoelectric point of 8.1. The enzyme shows approximately 50% homology with functional analogs, i.e., L-lysine N6-hydroxylase of aerobactin-producing Escherichia coli and L-Orn N5-oxygenase of ferrichrome-producing Ustilago maydis. The pvdA gene was expressed in P. aeruginosa under the control of the T7 promoter. Induction of the T7 RNA polymerase system resulted in parallel increases of the L-Orn N5-oxygenase activity and of the amount of a 47.7-kDa polypeptide. We also constructed a site-specific pvdA mutant by insertion of a tetracycline-resistance cassette in the chromosomal pvdA gene of P. aeruginosa PAO1. Similarly to strain PALS124, the pvdA mutant obtained by gene disruption also disclosed no pyoverdin synthesis, lacked L-Orn N5-oxygenase activity, was complemented by the cloned pvdA gene, and produced pyoverdin at wild-type levels when fed with the biosynthetic precursor L-N5-OH-Orn. Southern blot analysis indicated that genes homologous to pvdA could be located within a 1.7-kb DNA fragment from SphI-digested genomic DNA of different hydroxamate-producing Pseudomonas spp. Our results suggest that omega-amino acid oxygenases have been conserved over a wide evolutionary range and probably evolved from a common ancestor.