To better understand the protein secretion mechanisms involved in the growth and pathogenesis of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, we examined the secA gene from M. tuberculosis (tbsecA; cosmid sequence accession No. z95121.gb_ba). We generated plasmids containing the full-length tbsecA gene or a fusion containing the 5′ sequence from the M. tuberculosis secA gene and the remainder from the Escherichia coli secA gene and evaluated the ability of each construct to complement the defective SecA protein in E. coli MM52ts when grown at the non-permissive temperature. The full-length tbsecA gene was unable to compensate for the temperature-sensitive defect, whereas E. coli MM52ts that has been transformed with plasmid pMF8TB226 containing a chimeric secA gene was able to grow at 42°C. This work confirms that the topography of SecA and its ATP binding sites are highly conserved, whereas its membrane insertion domains are species specific. © 2002 Federation of European Microbiological Societies. Published by Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.