Formation of the tripeptide delta-(L-alpha-aminoadipyl)-L-cysteinyl-D-valine (Aad-Cys-Val) is catalyzed by a multienzyme peptide synthetase encoded by the pcbAB gene in producers of beta-lactam antibiotics. The pcbAB gene of Nocardia lactamdurans was overexpressed in Streptomyces lividans giving a high Aad-Cys-Val synthetase activity. The synthetase was purified 2785-fold to near homogeneity showing a molecular mass of 430 kDa by SDS/PAGE. The protein was identified in the gels with antibodies to Aad-Cys-Val synthetase and by the formation of aminoacyl-synthetase thioester complex with [14C]valine. The purified synthetase used alpha-aminoadipic acid or its lactam 6-oxopiperidine 2-carboxylic acid but was unable to use piperideine 6-carboxylic acid or pipecolic acid as substrates to form Aad-Cys-Val. L-Cystathionine, (2-amino-2-carboxyethyl)-L-homocysteine, was used as substrate and formed Aad-Cys-Val with the same efficiency as L-cysteine. The product of the reaction eluted with authentic Aad-Cys-Val. The synthetase preparation was able to hydrolyze L-cystathionine by a pyridoxal-phosphate-independent mechanism which is not inhibited by propargylglycine, to form Aad-Cys-Val.