Streptococcus mutans, along with many other Gram-positive bacteria produce small antibacterial peptides called bacteriocins. Bacteriocins elaborated by S. mutans, termed mutacins, may provide a selective force necessary for initial or sustained colonization in dental plaque by this major dental pathogen. Previously, we purified and characterized mutacin II, the first lantibiotic found in S. mutans. Specific oligonucleotides designed according to the N-terminal amino acid sequence permitted amplification of 0.7 kb upstream and 2.1 kb downstream of the N-terminus, using single-specific-primer PCR (SSP-PCR). The gene encoding the mutacin II prepeptide, mutA, was subsequently cloned and sequenced. The complete prepeptide consists of 53 amino acids, including the 26 amino acid amphipathic leader peptide with the Gly-2-Gly-1 sequence at the processing site. The prepeptide showed similarity to the lantibiotics lacticin 481, variacin, salivaricin and streptococcin A-FF22. A 3 kb open reading frame immediately downstream of mutA, denoted mutM, showed sequence similarities to LCNDR2 from Lactococcus lactis. By analogy, mutM is probably involved in post-translational modification of the mutacin prepeptide. Gene disruption with an insertional vector pVA891 showed that intact copies of mutA and mutM are required for production of mutacin II.