A region of genomic DNA from Clostridium kluyveri was cloned in Escherichia coli by a screening strategy which was based on heterologous expression of the clostridial 4-hydroxybutyrate dehydrogenase gene. The gene region (6,575 bp) contained several open reading frames which encoded the coenzyme A (CoA)- and NADP+-dependent succinate-semialdehyde dehydrogenase (sucD), the 4-hydroxybutyrate dehydrogenase (4hbD), and a succinyl-CoA;CoA transferase (cat1), as analyzed by heterologous expression in E. coli. An open reading frame encoding a putative membrane protein (orfY) and the 5' region of a gene encoding a sigma 54-homologous sigma factor (sigL) were identified as well. Transcription was investigated by Northern (RNA) blot analysis. Protein sequence comparisons of SucD and 4HbD revealed similarities to the adhE (aad) gene products from E. coli and Clostridium acetobutylicum and to enzymes of the novel class (III) of alcohol dehydrogenases. A comparison of CoA-dependent aldehyde dehydrogenases is presented.