Maximum expression of the Corynebacterium glutamicum lysA gene is dependent upon the presence of a 2.3 kb region immediately 5' of the lysA reading frame. Subcloning and functional analysis of the upstream region implied that this region contained the lysA promoter. Sequence determination of the upstream region revealed a single open reading frame, orfX, in the same orientation as lysA. The orfX coding sequence exhibited all the sequence characteristics of a gene with the potential for a 550-amino-acid polypeptide product. Expression of lysA is coupled to that of orfX via a common promoter located immediately 5' of orfX. The RNA start site has been determined by S1 nuclease mapping. Both the orfX and the lysA gene are expressed as a single 3.0 kb RNA transcript. These data indicate that orfX and lysA are genes within a two-gene operon. Expression of the lysA gene is not subject to regulation by lysine. The orfX gene product was shown not to be directly linked to the lysine biosynthetic pathway, nor is it the enzyme incorporating DAP into the peptidoglycan precursor.