The pyrC gene of Escherichia coli K-12, which encodes the pyrimidine biosynthetic enzyme dihydroorotase, was cloned as part of a 1.6-kilobase-pair chromosomal fragment. The nucleotide sequence of this fragment was determined. An open reading frame encoding a 348-amino acid polypeptide (Mr = 38,827) was identified as the pyrC structural gene by comparing the amino acid composition predicted from the DNA sequence with that previously determined for the dihydroorotase subunit. The pyrC promoter was mapped by primer extension of in vivo transcripts. Transcriptional initiation was shown to occur within a region located 36 to 39 base pairs upstream of the pyrC structural gene. Pyrimidine availability appears to affect the use of the minor transcriptional initiation sites. The level of pyrC transcription and dihydroorotase synthesis was coordinately derepressed by pyrimidine limitation, indicating that regulation occurs, at least primarily, at the transcriptional level. Inspection of the pyrC nucleotide sequence indicates that gene expression is not regulated by an attenuation control mechanism similar to that described for the pyrBI operon and the pyrE gene. A possible mechanism of transcriptional control involving a common repressor protein is suggested by the identification of a highly conserved, operatorlike sequence in the promoter regions of pyrC and the other pyrimidine genes (i.e., pyrD and carAB) whose expression is negatively regulated by a cytidine nucleotide effector.