delta-Aminolevulinate in plants, algae, cyanobacteria, and several other bacteria such as Escherichia coli and Bacillus subtilis is synthesized from glutamate by means of a tRNA(Glu) mediated pathway. The enzyme glutamyl tRNA(Glu) reductase catalyzes the second step in this pathway, the reduction of tRNA bound glutamate to give glutamate 1-semialdehyde. The hemA gene from barley encoding the glutamyl tRNA(Glu) reductase was expressed in E. coli cells joined at its amino terminal end to Schistosoma japonicum glutathione S-transferase (GST). GST-glutamyl tRNA(Glu) reductase fusion protein and the reductase released from it by thrombin digestion catalyzed the reduction of glutamyl tRNA(Glu) to glutamate 1-semialdehyde. The specific activity of the fusion protein was 120 pmol.micrograms-1.min-1. The fusion protein used tRNA(Glu) from barley chloroplasts preferentially to E. coli tRNA(Glu) and its activity was inhibited by hemin. It migrated as an 82-kDa polypeptide with SDS/PAGE and eluted with an apparent molecular mass of 450 kDa from Superose 12. After removal of the GST by thrombin, the protein migrated as an approximately equal to 60-kDa polypeptide with SDS/PAGE, whereas gel filtration on Superose 12 yielded an apparent molecule mass of 250 kDa. Isolated fusion protein contained heme, which could be reduced by NADPH and oxidized by air.