Streptomyces coelicolor is a representative of the group of soil-dwelling, filamentous bacteria responsible for producing most natural antibiotics used in human and veterinary medicine. Here we report the 8,667,507 base pair linear chromosome of this organism, containing the largest number of genes so far discovered in a bacterium. The 7,825 predicted genes include more than 20 clusters coding for known or predicted secondary metabolites. The genome contains an unprecedented proportion of regulatory genes, predominantly those likely to be involved in responses to external stimuli and stresses, and many duplicated gene sets that may represent 'tissue-specific' isoforms operating in different phases of colonial development, a unique situation for a bacterium. An ancient synteny was revealed between the central 'core' of the chromosome and the whole chromosome of pathogens Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Corynebacterium diphtheriae. The genome sequence will greatly increase our understanding of microbial life in the soil as well as aiding the generation of new drug candidates by genetic engineering.