The region located immediately upstream from the Klebsiella aerogenes urease structural genes was sequenced and shown to possess an open reading frame capable of encoding a 29.8-kDa peptide. Deletions were generated in this gene, denoted ureD, and in each of the genes (ureE, ureF, and ureG) located immediately downstream of the three structural genes. Transformation of the mutated plasmids into Escherichia coli resulted in high levels of urease expression, but the enzyme was inactive (deletions in ureD, ureF, or ureG) or only partially active (deletions in ureE). Ureases were purified from the recombinant cells and shown to be identical to control enzyme when analyzed by gel filtration chromatography and sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis; however, in every case the activity levels correlated to nickel contents as analyzed by atomic absorption analysis. UreD, UreE, UreF, and UreG peptides were tentatively identified by gel electrophoretic comparison of mutant and control cell extracts, by in vivo expression of separately cloned genes, or by in vitro transcription-translation analyses; the assignments were confirmed for UreE and UreG by amino-terminal sequencing. The latter peptides (apparent M(r)s, 23,900 and 28,500) were present at high levels comparable to those of the urease subunits, whereas the amounts of UreF (apparent M(r), 27,000) and UreD (apparent M(r), 29,300) were greatly reduced, perhaps because of the lack of good ribosome binding sites in the regions upstream of these open reading frames. These results demonstrate that all four accessory genes are necessary for the functional incorporation of the urease metallocenter.