The Bacillus subtilis mutS and mutL genes, involved in the DNA mismatch repair system, have been cloned and characterized. From sequence analysis the two genes appear to be organized in a single operon, located immediately downstream of the cotE gene (approximately 150 degrees on the genetic map). The deduced MutS protein is 49% identical to HexA and MutL is 46% identical to HexB of Streptococcus pneumoniae. Deletion of both mutS and mutL resulted in an increase in the frequency of spontaneous mutations and abolished the marker effect observed in transformation. The expression of the mut operon was studied with the use of a mutSL-lacZ transcriptional fusion. An increase in expression was observed during late exponential growth.