Caulobacter crescentus is motile by virtue of a polar flagellum assembled during the predivisional stage of the cell cycle. Three mutant strains in which flagellar assembly was blocked at an early stage were isolated. The mutations in these strains mapped to an operon of two genes, fliI and fliJ, both of which are necessary for motility. fliI encodes a 50- kDa polypeptide whose sequence is closely related to that of the Salmonella typhimurium FliI protein, an ATPase thought to energize the export of flagellar subunits across the cytoplasmic membrane through a type III protein secretion system. fliJ encodes a 16-kDa hydrophilic protein of unknown function. Epistasis experiments demonstrated that the fliIJ operon is located in class II of the C. crescentus flagellar regulatory hierarchy, suggesting that the gene products act at an early stage in flagellar assembly. The expression of fliIJ is induced midway through the cell cycle, coincident with other class II operons, but the FliI protein remains present throughout the cell cycle. Subcellular fractionation showed that FliI is present both in the cytoplasm and in association with the membrane. Mutational analysis of FliI showed that two highly conserved amino acid residues in a bipartite ATP binding motif are necessary for flagellar assembly.