A novel factor, which is a membrane component of the protein translocation machinery of Escherichia coli, was discovered. This factor was found in the trichloracetic acid-soluble fraction of solubilized cytoplasmic membrane. The factor was purified to homogeneity by ion exchange column chromatographies and found to be a hydrophobic protein with a molecular mass of approximately 12 kDa. The factor caused > 20-fold stimulation of the protein translocation when it was reconstituted into proteoliposomes together with SecE and SecY. SecE, SecY, SecA and ATP were essential for the factor-dependent stimulation of the activity. The factor stimulated the translocation of all three precursor proteins examined, including authentic proOmpA. Stimulation of the translocation of proOmpF-Lpp, a model presecretory protein, was especially remarkable, since no translocation was observed unless proteoliposomes were reconstituted with the factor. Partial amino acid sequence of the purified factor was determined. An antibody raised against a synthetic peptide of this sequence inhibited the protein translocation into everted membrane vesicles, indicating that the factor is playing an important role in protein translocation into membrane vesicles. The partial amino acid sequence was found to coincide with that deduced from the reported DNA sequence of the upstream region of the leuU gene. Cloning and sequencing of the upstream region revealed the presence of a new open reading frame, which encodes a hydrophobic protein of 11.4 kDa. We propose that the factor is a general component of the protein translocation machinery of E. coli.