The lantibiotic mutacin II, produced by Streptococcus mutans T8, is a ribosomally synthesized peptide antibiotic that contains thioether amino acids such as lanthionine and methyllanthionine as a result of post-translational modifications. The mutacin II leader peptide sequence shares a number of identical amino acid residues with class AII lantibiotic leader peptides. To study the role of these conservative residues in the production of active antimicrobial mutacin, 15 mutations were generated by site-directed mutagenesis. The effects of these substitutions vary from no effect to complete block-out. Mutations G-1A, G-2A, I-4D, and L-7K completely blocked the production of mature mutacin. Other mutations (I-4V, L-7M, E-8D, S-11T/A, V-12I/A, and E-13D) had no detectable effect on mutacin production. The changes of Glu-8 to Lys, Val-12 to Leu, Glu-13 to Lys reduced the mutacin production level to about 75%, 50%, and 10% of the wild-type, respectively. Thus, our data indicated that some of these conserved residues are essential for the mutacin biosynthesis, whereas others are important for optimal biosynthesis rates. © 2001 Federation of European Microbiological Societies.