Penicillin-binding proteins 1A and 1B of Escherichia coli are the major peptidoglycan transglycosylase-transpeptidases that catalyse the polymerisation and insertion of peptidoglycan precursors into the bacterial cell wall during cell elongation. The nucleotide sequence of a 2764-base-pair fragment of DNA that contained the ponA gene, encoding penicillin-binding protein 1A, was determined. The sequence predicted that penicillin-binding protein 1A had a relative molecular mass of 93 500 (850 amino acids). The amino-terminus of the protein had the features of a signal peptide but it is not known if this peptide is removed during insertion of the protein into the cytoplasmic membrane. The nucleotide sequence of a 2758-base-pair fragment of DNA that contained the ponB gene, encoding penicillin-binding protein 1B, was also determined. Penicillin-binding protein 1B consists of two major components which were shown to result from the use of alternative sites for the initiation of translation. The large and small forms of penicillin-binding protein 1B were predicted to have relative molecular masses of 94100 and 88 800 (844 and 799 amino acids). The amino acid sequences of penicillin-binding proteins 1A and 1B could be aligned if two large gaps were introduced into the latter sequence and the two proteins then showed about 30% identity. The amino acid sequences of the proteins showed no extensive similarity to the sequences of penicillin-binding proteins 3 or 5, or to the class A or class C β-lactamases. Two short regions of amino acid similarity were, however, found between penicillin-binding proteins 1A and 1B and the other penicillin-binding proteins and β-lactamases. One of these included the predicted active-site serine residue which was located towards the middle of the sequences of penicillin-binding proteins 1A, 1B and 3, within the conserved sequence Gly-Ser-Xaa-Xaa-Lys-Pro. The other region was 19–40 residues to the amino-terminal side of the active-site serine and may be part of a conserved penicillin-binding site in these proteins.