Bacillus anthracis plasmids pX01 and pX02, harboured by the Sterne and Pasteur strains, respectively, have been sequenced by random ‘shotgun’ cloning and high throughout sequence analysis. These sequences have been assembled (Sequencher) to generate a circulate pX01 plasmid containing 181 656 bp and a single linear (gapped) pX02 contig containing at least 93·479 bp. Initial annotation suggests that the two plasmids combined contain at least 200 potential open reading frames (ORFs) with < 40% having significant similarity to sequences registered in open databases. Collectively, only 118 566 bp of the pX01 DNA (65%) represent predicted coding regions. This value is similar to published gene densities for other plasmids and is indicative of the larger intergenic spaces in plasmids vs those found in the chromosomes of the parental microbes (85–93% gene density). A 70 kbp region including the toxin genes (cya, lef and pag) is distinct from the remainder of the pX01 sequence: (1) it has a lower gene density (58 vs 70%) than the remaining 111 kbp; (2) it contains all but one of the co-regulated transcriptional fusions identified by transposon mutagenesis ( Hoffmaster & Koehler 1997) and (3) it contains a significantly higher proportion of positive BLAST scores (62 vs 20%) for putative ORFs. These data suggest different origins for the two regions of pX01.