The sex pheromone cAM373 of Enterococcus faecalis and the related staph-cAM373 of Staphylococcus aureus were found to correspond to heptapeptides located within the C-termini of the signal sequences of putative prelipoproteins. The deduced mature forms of the lipoproteins share no detectable homology and presumably serve unrelated functions in the cells. The chromosomally encoded genetic determinants for production of the pheromones have been identified and designated camE (encoding cAM373) and camS (encoding staph-cAM373). Truncated and full-length clones of camE were generated in Escherichia coli, in which cAM373 activity was expressed. In E. faecalis, insertional inactivation in the middle of camE had no detectable phenotypic effects on the pheromone system. Establishment of an in frame translation stop codon within the signal sequence resulted in reduction of cAM373 activity to 3% of normal levels. The camS determinant has homologues in Staphylococcus epidermidis, Bacillus subtilis and Listeria monocytogenes; however, corresponding heptapeptides present within those sequences do not resemble staph-cAM373 closely. The particular significance of staph-cAM373 as a potential intergeneric inducer of transfer-proficient genetic elements is discussed.