Epidermin is produced by Staphylococcus epidermidis Tü3298 which harbors the 54-kb plasmid, pTü32. The plasmid contains not only the epidermin structural gene epiA, but also a flanking DNA region which is necessary for epidermin biosynthesis. The DNA sequence of this region revealed, in addition to epiA, five additional open reading frames, epiB, C, D, Q and P [Schnell, N., Engelke, G., Augustin J., Rosenstein, R., Ungermann, V., Götz, F. & Entian, K.-D. (1992) Eur. J. Biochem. 204, 57-68]. We isolated a number of stable mutants from strain Tü3298 which are unable to produce biologically active epidermin. Complementation studies using the newly constructed staphylococcal plasmid vectors pT181mcs and pCU1 led to their classification as epiA, epiB, epiC or epiD mutants. Furthermore, evidence is presented that epiB lacks its own promoter and is co-transcribed from the epiA promoter. There is evidence that epiC and D possess their own promoters. Although epiQ and epiP mutants were not isolated, it could be shown by heterologous gene expression in S. carnosus and S. xylosus that the corresponding DNA region is involved in epidermin biosynthesis. We can not exclude the possibility that, in addition to the four open reading frames, epiA, B, C, D, and the DNA region comprising epiQ and P, host-encoded functions are necessary for epidermin production. Thus, the genetic information for epidermin biosynthesis in S. carnosus and S. xylosus is located on an 8-kb DNA fragment of pTü32. A further characterization of the two epiA mutants revealed that in both mutants, the preepidermin nucleotide sequence was changed. In one mutant, the mutation led to a substitution of Ser3 by Asn; in the other of Gly10 by Glu.