The DNA sequence of the entire colicin E2 operon was determined. The operon comprises the colicin activity gene, ceaB, the colicin immunity gene, ceiB, and the lysis gene, celB, which is essential for colicin release from producing cells. A potential LexA binding site is located immediately upstream from ceaB, and a rho-independent terminator structure is located immediately downstream from celB. A comparison of the predicted amino acid sequences of colicin E2 and cloacin DF13 revealed extensive stretches of homology. These colicins have different modes of action and recognise different cell surface receptors; the two major regions of heterology at the carboxy terminus, and in the carboxy-terminal end of the central region probably correspond to the catalytic and receptor-recognition domains, respectively. Sequence homologies between colicins E2, A and E1 were less striking, and the colicin E2 immunity protein was not found to share extensive homology with the colicin E3 or cloacin DF13 immunity proteins. The lysis proteins of the ColE2, ColE1 and CloDF13 plasmids are almost identical except in the aminoterminal regions, which themselves have overall similarity with lipoprotein signal peptides. Processing of the ColE2 prolysis protein to the mature form was prevented by globomycin, a specific inhibitor of the lipoprotein signal peptidase. The mature ColE2 lysis protein was located in the cell envelope. The results are discussed in terms of the functional organisation of the colicin operons and the colicin proteins, and the way in which colicins are released from producing cells.