Most bacterial proteins are stable, with half-lives considerably longer than the generation time. In Escherichia coli, the few exceptions are unstable regulatory proteins. The results presented here indicate that the first enzyme in methionine biosynthesis - homoserine trans-succinylase (HTS) - is unstable and subject to energy-dependent proteolysis. The enzyme is stable in triple mutants defective in Lon-, HslVU- and ClpP-dependent proteases. The instability of the protein is determined by the amino-terminal part of the protein, and its removal or substitution by the N-terminal part of β-galactosidase confers stability. The effect of the amino-terminal segment is not caused by the N-end rule, as substitution of the first amino acid does not affect the stability of the protein. HTS is the first biosynthetic E. coli enzyme shown to have a short half-life and may represent a group of biosynthetic enzymes whose expression is controlled by proteolysis. Alternatively, the proteolytic processing of HTS may be unique to this enzyme and could reflect its central role in regulating bacterial growth, especially at elevated temperatures.