The chromosomal region of Bacillus subtilis comprising the entire srfA operon, sfp and about four kilobases in between have been completely sequenced and functionally characterized. The srfA gene codes for three large subunits of surfactin synthetase, 402, 401 and 144 kDa, respectively, arranged in a series of seven amino acid activating domains which, as shown in the accompanying communication, recognize and bind the seven amino acids of the surfactin peptide. The srfA amino acid activating domains share homologies with similar domains of other peptide synthetases; in particular, regions can be identified which are more homologous in domains activating the same amino acid. A fourth gene in srfA encodes a polypeptide homologous to grsT. Four genes are positioned between srfA and sfp, the disruption of which does not affect surfactin biosynthesis.