In a survey of microbial systems capable of generating unusual metabolite structural variability, Streptomyces venezuelae ATCC 15439 is notable in its ability to produce two distinct groups of macrolide antibiotics. Methymycin and neomethymycin are derived from the 12-membered ring macrolactone 10-deoxymethynolide, whereas narbomycin and pikromycin are derived from the 14-membered ring macrolactone, narbonolide. This report describes the cloning and characterization of the biosynthetic gene cluster for these antibiotics. Central to the cluster is a polyketide synthase locus (pikA) that encodes a six-module system comprised of four multifunctional proteins, in addition to a type II thioesterase (TEII). Immediately downstream is a set of genes for desosamine biosynthesis (des) and macrolide ring hydroxylation. The study suggests that Pik TEII plays a role in forming a metabolic branch through which polyketides of different chain length are generated, and the glycosyl transferase (encoded by desVII) has the ability to catalyze glycosylation of both the 12- and 14-membered ring macrolactones. Moreover, the pikC-encoded P450 hydroxylase provides yet another layer of structural variability by introducing regiochemical diversity into the macrolide ring systems. The data support the notion that the architecture of the pik gene cluster as well as the unusual substrate specificity of particular enzymes contributes to its ability to generate four macrolide antibiotics.