A Gram-positive, extremely halotolerant bacterium was isolated from the Great Salt Lake, Utah, USA. The strain, designated NNT (= DSM 11805T), was strictly aerobic, rod-shaped, motile by peritrichous flagella and spore-forming. Strain NNT grew at salinities of 0-20% (w/v) NaCl. A distinctive feature of strain NNT was its optimal growth in salt-free medium. The polar lipid pattern of strain NNT consisted of phosphatidyl glycerol, diphosphatidyl glycerol and two phospholipids of unknown structure. The G + C content of its DNA was 38 mol%. The morphological, physiological and, particularly, the 16S rDNA sequence data, showed that strain NNT was associated with 'Bacillus group 1'. However, the organisms showing the greatest degree of sequence similarity to strain NNT were members of the genus Halobacillus and the species Marinococcus albus, Virgibacillus pantothenticus, Bacillus salexigens and Bacillus dipsosauri. On the basis of chemotaxonomic data, strain NNT was shown to be chemically most similar to B. salexigens and B. dipsosauri, with the greatest degree of similarity being shown to the latter organism. This was consistent with the 16S rDNA sequence data. Members of the genus Halobacillus comprise a chemically distinct group and can easily be distinguished from all other organisms of 'Bacillus group 1'. On the basis of the 16S rDNA data, chemotaxonomy and the physiology of strain NNT, it is proposed that this organism is a member of a new species, within a new genus, for which the name Gracilibacillus halotolerans is proposed. It is also proposed that B. dipsosauri be transferred to this genus as Gracilibacillus dipsosauri comb. nov. and that B. salexigens be transferred to the genus Salibacillus gen. nov., as Salibacillus salexigens comb. nov. Finally, additional data is provided to support the transfer of Bacillus pantothenticus to the genus Virgibacillus, as Virgibacillus pantothenticus Heyndrickx et al. (1998).