To optimize Bacillus subtilis as a production strain for proteins and low molecular substances by genome engineering, we developed a markerless gene deletion system. We took advantage of a general property of the phosphoenolpyruvate-dependent phosphotransferase system (PTS), in particular the mannose PTS. Mannose is phosphorylated during uptake by its specific transporter (ManP) to mannose 6-phosphate, which is further converted to fructose 6-phosphate by the mannose-6-phosphate isomerase (ManA). When ManA is missing, accumulation of the phosphorylated mannose inhibits cell growth. This system was constructed by deletion of manP and manA in B. subtilis Δ6, a 168 derivative strain with six large deletions of prophages and antibiotic biosynthesis genes. The manP gene was inserted into an Escherichia coli plasmid together with a spectinomycin resistance gene for selection in B. subtilis. To delete a specific region, its up- and downstream flanking sites (each of approximately 700 bp) were inserted into the vector. After transformation, integration of the plasmid into the chromosome of B. subtilis by single cross-over was selected by spectinomycin. In the second step, excision of the plasmid was selected by growth on mannose. Finally, excision and concomitant deletion of the target region were verified by colony PCR. In this way, all nine prophages, seven antibiotic biosynthesis gene clusters and two sigma factors for sporulation were deleted and the B. subtilis genome was reduced from 4215 to 3640 kb. Despite these extensive deletions, growth rate and cell morphology remained similar to the B. subtilis 168 parental strain.