Genes essential for the production of a linear, bacterial (1-->3)-beta-glucan, curdlan, have been cloned for the first time from Agrobacterium sp. ATCC31749. The genes occurred in two, nonoverlapping, genomic fragments that complemented different sets of curdlan( crd )-deficient transposon-insertion mutations. These were detected as colonies that failed to stain with aniline blue, a (1-->3)-beta-glucan specific dye. One fragment carried a biosynthetic gene cluster (locus I) containing the putative curdlan synthase gene, crdS, and at least two other crd genes. The second fragment may contain only a single crd gene (locus II). Determination of the DNA sequence adjacent to several locus I mutations revealed homology to known sequences only in the cases of crdS mutations. Complete sequencing of the 1623 bp crdS gene revealed highest similarities between the predicted CrdS protein (540 amino acids) and glycosyl transferases with repetitive action patterns. These include bacterial cellulose synthases (and their homologs), which form (1-->4)-beta-glucans. No similarity was detected with putative (1-->3)-beta-glucan synthases from yeasts and filamentous fungi. Whatever the determinants of the linkage specificity of these beta-glucan synthases might be, these results raise the possibility that (1-->3)-beta-glucans and (1-->4)-beta-glucans are formed by related catalytic polypeptides.