The genus Mycobacterium comprises clinically important pathogens such as M. tuberculosis, which has reemerged as a major cause of morbidity and mortality world-wide especially with the emergence of multidrug-resistant strains. The use of fast-growing species such as Mycobacterium smegmatis has allowed important advances to be made in the field of mycobacterial genetics and in the study of the mechanisms of resistance in mycobacteria. The isolation of an aminoglycoside-resistance gene from Mycobacterium fortuitum has recently been described. The aac(2')-Ib gene is chromosomally encoded and is present in all isolates of M. fortuitum. The presence of this gene in other mycobacterial species is studied here and genes homologous to that of M. fortuitum have been found in all mycobacterial species studied. In this report, the cloning of the aac(2')-Ic gene from M. tuberculosis H37Rv and the aac(2')-Id gene from M. smegmatis mc(2)155 is described. Southern blot hybridizations have shown that both genes are present in all strains of this species studied to date. In addition, the putative aac(2')-Ie gene has been located in a recent release of the Mycobacterium leprae genome. The expression of the aac(2')-Ic and aac(2')-Id genes has been studied in M. smegmatis and only aac(2')-Id is correlated with aminoglycoside resistance. In order to elucidate the role of the aminoglycoside 2'-N-acetyltransferase genes in mycobacteria and to determine whether they are silent resistance genes or whether they have a secondary role in mycobacterial metabolism, the aac(2')-Id gene from M. smegmatis has been disrupted in the chromosome of M. smegmatis mc(2)155. The disruptant shows an increase in aminoglycoside susceptibility along with a slight increase in the susceptibility to lysozyme.