Mithramycin is an antitumor aromatic polyketide synthesized by Streptomyces argillaceus. Two genes (mtrX and mtrY) of the mithramycin gene cluster were inactivated by gene replacement. Inactivation of mtrX, that encodes an ABC excission nuclease system for DNA repair, produced a mutant that was affected in the normal rate of growth. Expression of mtrX in Streptomyces albus in a multicopy plasmid vector conferred a low increase in resistance to mithramycin. Inactivation of mtrY, that encodes a protein of unknown function, produced a 50% decrease in mithramycin biosynthesis. When mtrY was expressed in the wild-type S. argillaceus in a multicopy plasmid, this caused about 47% increase in the levels of mithramycin production. It is proposed that mtrX and mtrY could code for a secondary defense mechanism and a mithramycin regulatory element, respectively.