A 2.1 kb (1 kb = 10(3) base-pairs) segment of DNA from the streptomycete bacteriophage phi C31 was found to be sufficient to direct site-specific integration of plasmid vectors in Streptomyces ambofaciens and Streptomyces fradiae in the absence of any streptomycete origin of replication. Sequencing and analysis of phage, chromosomal and junction attachment sites of S. ambofaciens and S. fradiae revealed that recombination is conservative and that crossover takes place within three bases of homology between phage and host. Deletion analysis, sequencing and site-specific mutagenesis of the phi C31 DNA revealed a large open reading frame (ORF 613) whose expression was necessary for integration. This ORF begins near the point of crossover and reads away from the attachment site. A comparison of the predicted amino acid sequence of ORF 613 with known recombinases did not reveal any significant similarities. A genetic analysis of the amino-terminal region of ORF 613 suggested that translation could initiate at any one of three possible start codons. Primer extension experiments showed that transcriptional initiation occurred at a T and a C only four and five bases, respectively, from the site of crossover. This analysis suggested that ORF 613 would be separated from its promoter upon integration.