The overproduction of Na+/H+ antiporter NhaA in Escherichia coli caused growth retardation. Quantities and the activity of the antiporter were studied for their causative roles in terms of this retardation. We constructed a series of nhaA-expression plasmids differing in their transcriptional and translational efficiencies. Low-level nhaA expression complemented the defect of an nhaA mutant and allowed the mutant to survive on a high-NaCl or high-LiCl medium. However, when the production of NhaA was strongly induced by the combination of a stronger promoter, an efficient translational initiation signal and a high copy number plasmid, the growth of the cells carrying the plasmid was severely retarded. This growth retardation correlated well with the amount of NhaA protein produced from the plasmids. Surprisingly, the growth retardation caused by overproduction of NhaA was enhanced more extensively at an alkaline pH than at a neutral pH, in which the antiporter activity was stimulated. However, these retardations were also observed for mutant NhaA antiporters without the activity. These results indicated that the growth retardation was due to an overproduction of the antiporter rather than its increased antiporter activity, and also affected by a pH-dependent change in NhaA, possibly its structural change.