Lysine decarboxylase (LDC) catalyzes the first-step in the biosynthetic pathway of quinolizidine alkaloids (QAs), which form a distinct, large family of plant alkaloids. A cDNA of lysine/ornithine decarboxylase (L/ODC) was isolated by differential transcript screening in QA-producing and nonproducing cultivars of Lupinus angustifolius. We also obtained L/ODC cDNAs from four other QA-producing plants, Sophora flavescens, Echinosophora koreensis, Thermopsis chinensis, and Baptisia australis. These L/ODCs form a phylogenetically distinct subclade in the family of plant ornithine decarboxylases. Recombinant L/ODCs from QA-producing plants preferentially or equally catalyzed the decarboxylation of L-lysine and L-ornithine. L. angustifolius L/ODC (La-L/ODC) was found to be localized in chloroplasts, as suggested by the transient expression of a fusion protein of La-L/ODC fused to the N terminus of green fluorescent protein in Arabidopsis thaliana. Transgenic tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) suspension cells and hairy roots produced enhanced levels of cadaverine-derived alkaloids, and transgenic Arabidopsis plants expressing (La-L/ODC) produced enhanced levels of cadaverine, indicating the involvement of this enzyme in lysine decarboxylation to form cadaverine. Site-directed mutagenesis and protein modeling studies revealed a structural basis for preferential LDC activity, suggesting an evolutionary implication of L/ODC in the QA-producing plants.