The mitomycins are natural products that contain a variety of functional groups, including aminobenzoquinone- and aziridine-ring systems. Mitomycin C (MC) was the first recognized bioreductive alkylating agent, and has been widely used clinically for antitumor therapy. Precursor-feeding studies showed that MC is derived from 3-amino-5-hydroxybenzoic acid (AHBA), D-glucosamine, L-methionine and carbamoyl phosphate. A genetically linked AHBA biosynthetic gene and MC resistance genes were identified previously in the MC producer Streptomyces lavendulae NRRL 2564. We set out to identify other genes involved in MC biosynthesis. A cluster of 47 genes spanning 55 kilobases of S. lavendulae DNA governs MC biosynthesis. Fourteen of 22 disruption mutants did not express or overexpressed MC. Seven gene products probably assemble the AHBA intermediate through a variant of the shikimate pathway. The gene encoding the first presumed enzyme in AHBA biosynthesis is not, however, linked within the MC cluster. Candidate genes for mitosane nucleus formation and functionalization were identified. A putative MC translocase was identified that comprises a novel drug-binding and export system, which confers cellular self-protection on S. lavendulae. Two regulatory genes were also identified. The overall architecture of the MC biosynthetic gene cluster in S. lavendulae has been determined. Targeted manipulation of a putative MC pathway regulator led to a substantial increase in drug production. The cloned genes should help elucidate the molecular basis for creation of the mitosane ring system, as well efforts to engineer the biosynthesis of novel natural products.