The chb1 gene, which encodes the unique lectin-like α-chitin-binding protein CHB1 of Streptomyces olivaceoviridis, was cloned. Transformants of Streptomyces lividans harbouring the plasmid pCHB10 overproduced the extracellular CHB1 protein; the protein showed neither enzymatic nor antifungal activity. Biochemical analyses and immunofluorescence microscopy indicated that CHB1 binds strongly to α-chitin, but neither to chitosan and β-chitin, nor to various types of cellulose. Within hyphae of fungi, the relative location of crystalline chitin was visualized with fluor-escein-labelled CHB1. These studies suggest that the new protein could serve as a tool to identify α-chitin within different organisms. The chb1 gene consists of a reading frame of 603 bp and its transcription occurred only if the Streptomyces strain was cultivated with chitin as the sole carbon source. The deduced mature CHB1 protein (18.7 kDa) shows no apparent similarity to any known protein. Within a region containing 100 residues of the deduced CHB1 protein, four tryptophan and two asparagine residues as well as one glycine and one cysteine residue were identified, the relative positions of which are analogous to those of several cellulose-binding domains of bacterial glycohydrolases. The results of spectroscopical studies suggest a possible involvement of tryptophan residues in the interaction of CHB1 with α-chitin.