The nucleotide sequence of the protective antigen (PA) gene from Bacillus anthracis and the 5' and 3' flanking sequences were determined. PA is one of three proteins comprising anthrax toxin; and its nucleotide sequence is the first to be reported from B. anthracis. The open reading frame (ORF) is 2319 bp long, of which 2205 bp encode the 735 amino acids of the secreted protein. This region is preceded by 29 codons, which appear to encode a signal peptide having characteristics in common with those of other secreted proteins. A consensus TATAAT sequence was located at the putative -10 promoter site. A Shine-Dalgarno site similar to that found in genes of other Bacillus sp. was located 7 bp upstream from the ATG start codon. The codon usage for the PA gene reflected its high A + T (69%) base composition and differed from those of genes for bacterial proteins from most other sequences examined. The TAA translation stop codon was followed by an inverted repeat forming a potential termination signal. In addition, a 192-codon ORF of unknown significance, theoretically encoding a 21.6-kDa protein, preceded the 5' end of the PA gene.