Expression of several mutant forms of outer membrane protein PhoE of Escherichia coli, which are disturbed in normal biogenesis, resulted in high expression of a 26 kDa protein. This 26 kDa protein fractionated as a peripherally bound inner membrane protein. It appeared to be identical to a previously identified protein (PspA = phage shock protein A) of unknown function that is induced upon infection of E. coli with filamentous phages. PspA was not expressed upon synthesis of mutant PhoE proteins in a secB mutant, nor upon expression of a PhoE mutant that lacks the signal sequence, suggesting that entrance into the export pathway of prePhoE is essential for induction. PspA synthesis was also induced under other conditions that are known to block the export apparatus, i.e. in secA, secD and secF mutants when grown at their non-permissive temperature or upon induction of the synthesis of MalE-LacZ or LamB-LacZ hybrid proteins. The inducing conditions for PspA synthesis suggested a role for this protein in export. In vivo pulse-chase experiments showed that the translocation of (mutant) prePhoE and of the precursors of other exported proteins was retarded in a pspA mutant strain. Also, in in vitro translocation assays, a role for PspA in protein transport could be demonstrated.