Enterotoxin production in Clostridium perfringens is both strain dependent and sporulation associated. Underlying these phenotypic observations must lie a genetic and molecular explanation and the principal keys will be held within the DNA sequence both upstream and downstream of the structural gene cpe. In accordance with the above we have sequenced 4.1 kbp of DNA upstream of cpe in the type strain NCTC 8239. A region of DNA extending up to 1.5 kb 5' to cpe is conserved in all enterotoxin-positive strains. This region contains a putative ORF with substantial homology to an ORF in the Salmonella typhimurium IS200 insertion element and, in addition, contains multiple perfect consensus DNA-binding sequences for the Bacillus subtilis transition state regulator Hpr. The detailed structural elements revealed by the sequence analysis are presented and used to develop a new perspective on the molecular basis of enterotoxin production in this important food-poisoning bacterium.