Pseudomonas aeruginosa PAO-E64 is a mutant which produces parental levels of elastase antigen but has no elastolytic activity at 37 degrees C. The lesion (lasA1) in PAO-E64 is not a mutation in the structural gene for P. aeruginosa elastase (P.A. Schad, R.A. Bever, T.I. Nicas, F. Leduce, L.F. Hanne, and B.H. Iglewski, J. Bacteriol. 169: 2691-2696, 1987). A 1.7-kilobase segment of DNA that complements the lasA1 lesion was sequenced. Computer analysis of the DNA sequence showed that it contained an open reading frame which encoded a 41,111-dalton protein. The lasA gene was expressed under an inducible PT-7 promoter, and a 40,000-dalton protein was detected in Escherichia coli lysates. The lasA protein was localized in the outer membrane fraction of E. coli. This lasA protein produced in E. coli activated the extracellular elastase produced by the P. aeruginosa mutant, PAO-E64.