Escherichia coli cannot grow on L-lyxose, a pentose analog of the 6-deoxyhexose L-rhamnose, which supports the growth of this and other enteric bacteria. L-Rhamnose is metabolized in E. coli by a system that consists of a rhamnose permease, rhamnose isomerase, rhamnulose kinase, and rhamnulose-1-phosphate aldolase, which yields the degradation products dihydroxyacetone phosphate and L-lactaldehyde. This aldehyde is oxidized to L-lactate by lactaldehyde dehydrogenase. All enzymes of the rhamnose system were found to be inducible not only by L-rhamnose but also by L-lyxose. L-Lyxose competed with L-rhamnose for the rhamnose transport system, and purified rhamnose isomerase catalyzed the conversion of L-lyxose into L-xylulose. However, rhamnulose kinase did not phosphorylate L-xylulose sufficiently to support the growth of wild-type E. coli on L-lyxose. Mutants able to grow on L-lyxose were analyzed and found to have a mutated rhamnulose kinase which phosphorylated L-xylulose as efficiently as the wild-type enzyme phosphorylated L-rhamnulose. Thus, the mutated kinase, mapped in the rha locus, enabled the growth of the mutant cells on L-lyxose. The glycolaldehyde generated in the cleavage of L-xylulose 1-phosphate by the rhamnulose-1-phosphate aldolase was oxidized by lactaldehyde dehydrogenase to glycolate, a compound normally utilized by E. coli.