EnvZ is an inner membrane protein present in Escherichia coli that is important for osmosensing and required for porin gene regulation. EnvZ is phosphorylated by intracellular ATP, and EnvZ-P phosphorylates OmpR, which then binds to the porin promoters to regulate their expression. An overexpressed, truncated form of the enzyme, EnvZ115, was used to characterize the kinase reaction in vitro. Using a filter binding assay, we report the first direct measurements of the kinase activity, including the apparent affinity for ATP of 200 microM. The phosphorylation reaction is dependent on MgCl2, and the phosphoenzyme has the expected stability of a phosphohistidine; i.e., it is stable in base and less stable in acid at room temperature. The addition of OmpR and ATP to solutions containing EnvZ resulted in an OmpR-stimulated, EnvZ-dependent ATPase activity that was not vanadate-sensitive. The in vivo kinase activity of EnvZ and two mutants that were deficient in porin expression were studied using an immune complex kinase reaction. Interestingly, a mutation located in the periplasmic domain of EnvZ exhibited kinase activity that was identical to that of the wild-type enzyme, while a mutation located close to the phosphorylation site showed a significant decrease in both kinase and phosphotransferase activities. These data provide support for models of EnvZ consisting of separate sensing and kinase domains.