Bacillus subtilis spo0K mutants are blocked at the first step in sporulation. The spo0K strain was found to contain two mutations: one was linked to the trpS locus, and the other was elsewhere on the chromosome. The mutation linked to trpS was responsible for the sporulation defect (spo-). The unlinked mutation enhanced this sporulation deficiency but had no phenotype on its own. The spo- mutation was located in an operon of five genes highly homologous to the oligopeptide transport (Opp) system of Gram-negative species. Studies with toxic peptide analogues showed that this operon does indeed encode a peptide-transport system. However, unlike the Opp system of Salmonella typhimurium, one of the two ATP-binding proteins, OppF, was not required for peptide transport or for sporulation. The OppA peptide-binding protein, which is periplasmically located in Gram-negative species, has a signal sequence characteristic of lipoproteins with an amino-terminal lipo-amino acid anchor. Cellular location studies revealed that OppA was associated with the cell during exponential growth, but was released into the medium in stationary phase. A major role of the Opp system in Gram-negative bacteria is the recycling of cell-wall peptides as they are released from the growing peptidoglycan. We postulate that the accumulation of such peptides may play a signalling role in the initiation of sporulation, and that the sporulation defect in opp mutants results from an inability to transport these peptides.