Streptomyces coelicolor produces spores whose development of a grey colour requires the activity of the whiE locus. The cloned whiE locus was identified after mobilization into a whiE mutant of a library of S. coelicolor DNA inserted into a transmissible plasmid vector. The whiE region of the cloned DNA was localized both by subcloning and by mutagenesis of the cloned DNA with the Streptomyces transposon Tn4560. Nucleotide sequencing of this region revealed seven open reading frames, of which six show homo-logy at the level of deduced gene products with genes involved in the synthesis of polyketide antibiotics. A previously described S. coelicolor DNA segment encoding biosynthesis of a brown pigment (Horinouchi and Beppu, 1985) corresponds to the cloned whiE DNA. It is proposed that whiE is normally expressed only in the aerial hyphae, where the biosynthetic product is responsible for spore colour.