Coproporphyrinogen III oxidase, an enzyme involved in heme biosynthesis, catalyzes the oxidative decarboxylation of coproporphyrinogen III to form protoporphyrinogen IX. Genetic and biochemical studies suggested the presence of two different coproporphyrinogen III oxidases, one for aerobic and one for anaerobic conditions. Here we report the cloning of the hemF gene, encoding the aerobic coproporphyrinogen III oxidase from Escherichia coli, by functional complementation of a Saccharomyces cerevisiae HEM13 mutant. An open reading frame of 897 bp encoding a protein of 299 amino acids with a calculated molecular mass of 34.3 kDa was identified. Sequence comparisons revealed 43% amino acid sequence identity with the product of the S. cerevisiae HEM13 gene and 90% identity with the product of the recently cloned Salmonella typhimurium hemF gene, while a structural relationship to the proposed anaerobic enzyme from Rhodobacter sphaeroides was not obvious. The hemF gene is in an operon with an upstream open reading frame (orf1) encoding a 31.7-kDa protein with homology to an amidase involved in cell wall metabolism. The hemF gene was mapped to 52.6 min of the E. coli chromosome. Primer extension experiments revealed a strong transcription initiation site upstream of orf1. A weak signal, possibly indicative of a second promoter, was also identified just upstream of the hemF gene. A region containing bent DNA (Bent 111), previously mapped to 52.6 min of the E. coli chromosome, was discovered in the 5' region of orf1. Two potential integration host factor binding sites were found, one close to each transcription start site. An open reading frame (orf3) transcribed in a direction opposite that of the hemF gene was found downstream of the hemF gene. It encodes a protein of 40.2 kDa that showed significant homology to proteins of the XylS/AraC family of transcriptional regulators.