The role of the Escherichia coli lacY gene product (the lactose permease) in the induction of isopropyl-beta-D-thiogalactopyranoside (IPTG) inducible promoters was studied in E. coli and P. fluorescens. This was done by comparing strains containing a lacIPOZYA chromosomal insert with newly constructed strains containing inserts without the lacY gene (lacIPOZ). The lactose operon inserts were introduced as single-copy chromosomal inserts to eliminate differences in expression caused by differences in copy number. Comparison between the two types of inserts showed that the lactose permease was essential to allow growth on lactose by both bacteria and that the lactose permease plays an important role in transporting the inducer IPTG across the membrane of P. fluorescens. The use of a functional lactose permease allows expression of beta-galactosidase to increase more than fivefold from a wild-type lac promoter in P. fluorescens SS1001. We suggest that an increase in the rate of protein synthesis from lac-type promoters could be enhanced if an active lactose permease is present as well.