A 19-kilobase BamHI fragment encoding the recB (exonuclease V), recC (exonuclease V), ptr (protease III), thyA, and argA genes of Escherichia coli K-12 was cloned into a multicopy plasmid (pCDK3). In E. coli maxicells, the plasmid specified the synthesis of seven polypeptides of 140,000 (recC), 128,000 (recB), 110,000 (ptr), 53,000 (argA), 50,000, 33,000 (thyA), and 22,000 Mr, as well as beta-lactamase and chloramphenicol acetyltransferase. From analysis of subclones and Tn1000 insertions, it appears that the 110,000- and 50,000-Mr proteins originated from the ptr DNA coding sequence which is located between the recB and recC genes. Although recC, ptr, and recB were physically closely linked and transcribed in the same direction, they do not appear to constitute an operon. Cells carrying pCDK3 contained a 30- to 50-fold increase in exonuclease V activity, without affecting cell viability.