Chromosomal insertions defining Bordetella bronchiseptica siderophore phenotypic complementation group III mutants BRM3 and BRM5 were found to reside approximately 200 to 300 bp apart by restriction mapping of cloned genomic regions associated with the insertion markers. DNA hybridization analysis using B. bronchiseptica genomic DNA sequences flanking the tinned BRM3 insertion marker identified homologous Bordetella pertussis UT25 cosmids that complemented the siderophore biosynthesis defect of the group III B. bronchiseptica mutants. Subcloning and complementation analysis localized the complementing activity to a 2.8-kb B. pertussis genomic DNA region. Nucleotide sequencing identified an open reading frame predicted to encode a polypeptide exhibiting strong similarity at the primary amino acid level with several pyridoxal phosphate-dependent amino acid decarboxylases. Alcaligin production was fully restored to group III mutants by supplementation of iron-depleted culture media with putrescine (1,4-diaminobutane), consistent with defects in an ornithine decarboxylase activity required for alcaligin siderophore biosynthesis. Concordantly, the alcaligin biosynthesis defect of BRM3 was functionally complemented by the heterologous Escherichia coli speC gene encoding an ornithine decarboxylase activity. Enzyme assays confirmed that group III B. bronchiseptica siderophore-deficient mutants lack an ornithine decarboxylase activity required for the biosynthesis of alcaligin. Siderophore production by an analogous mutant of B. pertussis constructed by allelic exchange was undetectable. We propose the designation odc for the gene defined by these mutations that abrogate alcaligin siderophore production. Putrescine is an essential precursor of alcaligin in Bordetella spp.