The lincomycin (LM)-production gene cluster of the overproducing strain Streptomyces lincolnensis 78-11 was cloned, analysed by hybridization, as well as by DNA sequencing, and compared with the respective genome segments of other lincomycin producers. The lmb/lmr gene cluster is composed of 27 open reading frames with putative biosynthetic or regulatory functions (lmb genes) and three resistance (lmr) genes, two of which, lmrA and lmrC, flank the cluster. A very similar overall organization of the lmb/lmr cluster seems to be conserved in four other LM producers, although the clusters are embedded in non-homologous genomic surroundings. In the wild-type strain (S. lincolnensis NRRL2936), the lmb/lmr-cluster apparently is present only in single copy. However, in the industrial strain S. lincolnensis 78-11 the non-adjacent gene clusters for the production of LM and melanin (melC) both are duplicated on a large (0.45-0.5 Mb) fragment, accompanied by deletion events. This indicates that enhanced gene dosage is one of the factors for the overproduction of LM and demonstrates that large-scale genome rearrangements can be a result of classical strain improvement by mutagenesis. Only a minority of the putative Lmb proteins belong to known protein families. These include members of the gamma-glutamyl transferases (LmbA), amino acid acylases (LmbC), aromatic amino acid aminotransferases (LmbF), imidazoleglycerolphosphate dehydratases (LmbK), dTDP-glucose synthases (LmbO), dTDP-glucose 4,6-dehydratases (LmbM) and (NDP-) ketohexose (or ketocyclitol) aminotransferases (LmbS). In contrast to earlier proposals on the biosynthetic pathway of the C-8 sugar moiety (methylthiolincosaminide), this branch of the LM pathway actually seems to be based on nucleotide-activated sugars as precursors.