The ability to genetically alter the product-formation capabilities of Clostridium acetobutylicum is necessary for continued progress toward industrial production of the solvents butanol and acetone by fermentation. Batch fermentations at pH 4.5, 5.5, or 6.5 were conducted using C. acetobutylicum ATCC 824 (pFNK6). Plasmid pFNK6 contains a synthetic operon (the “ace operon”) in which the three homologous acetone-formation genas (adc, ctfA, and ctfB) are transcribed from the adc promoter. The corresponding enzymes (acetoacetate decarboxylase and CoA-transferase) were best expressed in pH 4.5 fermentations. However, the highest levels of solvents were attained at pH 5.5. Relative to the plasmid-free control strain at pH 5.5, ATCC 824 (pFNK6) produced 95%, 37%, and 90% higher final concentrations of acetone, butanol, and ethanol, respectively; a 50% higher yield (g/g) of solvents on glucose; and a 22-fold lower mass of residual carboxylic acids. At all pH values, the acetone-formation enzymes were expressed earlier with ATCC 824 (pFNK6) than in control fermentations, leading to earlier induction of acetone formation. Furthermore, strain ATCC 824 (pFNK6) produced butanol significantly earlier in the fermentation and produced significant levels of solvents at pH 6.5. Only trace levels of solvents were produced by strain ATCC 824 at pH 6.5. Compared with ATCC 824, a plasmid-control strain containing a vector without the ace operon also produced higher levels of solvents [although lower than those of strain ATCC 824 (pFNK6)] and lower levels of acids. Strains containing plasmid-borne derivatives of the ace operon, in which either the acetoacetate decarboxylase or CoA-transferase alone were expressed at elevated levels, produced acids and solvents at levels similar to those of the plasmid-control strain. © 1993 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.