The precursors for linkage unit (LU) synthesis in Staphylococcus aureus H were UDP-GlcNAc, UDP-N-acetylmannosamine (ManNAc) and CDP-glycerol and synthesis was stimulated by ATP. Moraprenol-PP-GlcNAc-ManNAc-(glycerol phosphate)1-3 was formed from chemically synthesised moraprenol-PP-GlcNAc, UDP-ManNAc and CDP-glycerol in the presence of Triton X-100. LU intermediates formed under both conditions served as acceptors for ribitol phosphate residues, from CDP-ribitol, which comprise the main chain. The initial transfer of GlcNAc-1-phosphate from UDP-GlcNAc was very sensitive to tunicamycin whereas the subsequent transfer of ManNAc from UDP-ManNAc was not. Poly(GlcNAc-1-phosphate) and LU synthesis in Micrococcus varians, with endogenous lipid acceptor, UDP-GlcNAc and CDP-glycerol, was stimulated by UDP-ManNAc. Synthesis of LU on exogenous moraprenol-PP-GlcNAc, with Triton X-100, was dependent on UDP-ManNAc and CDP-glycerol and the intermediates formed served as substrates for polymer synthesis. Membranes from Bacillus subtilis W23 had much lower levels of LU synthesis, but UDP-ManNAc was again required for optimal synthesis in the presence of UDP-GlcNAc and CDP-glycerol. Conditions for LU synthesis on exogenous moraprenol-PP-GlcNAc were not found in this organism. LU synthesis on endogenous acceptor in the absence of UDP-ManNAc was explained by contamination of membranes with UDP-GlcNAc 2-epimerase. Under appropriate conditions, low levels of this enzyme were sufficient to convert UDP-GlcNAc into a mixture of UDP-Glc-NAc and UDP-ManNAc and account for LU synthesis. The results indicate the formation of prenol-PP-GlcNAc-ManNAc-(glycerol phosphate)1-3 which is involved in the synthesis of wall teichoic acids in S. aureus H, M. varians and B. subtilis W23 and their attachment to peptidoglycan.