The Clostridium acetobutylicum ATCC 824 spo0A gene was cloned, and two recombinant strains were generated, an spo0A inactivation strain (SKO1) and an spo0A overexpression strain [824(pMPSOA)]. SKO1 was developed by targeted gene inactivation with a replicative plasmid capable of double-crossover chromosomal integration--a technique never used before with solventogenic clostridia. SKO1 was severely deficient in solvent formation: it produced only 2 mM acetone and 13 mM butanol, compared to the 92 mM acetone and 172 mM butanol produced by the parental strain. After 72 h of growth on solid media, SKO1 formed long filaments of rod-shaped cells that failed to septate. SKO1 cells never achieved the swollen clostridial form typical of the parental strain and did not form endospores. No spo0A transcripts were detected in SKO1, while transcription of two solvent formation operons (aad-ctfA-ctfB and adc; both containing 0A boxes in their promoter regions) was limited. Strain 824(pMSPOA) produced higher butanol concentrations than the control strain [824(pIMP1)] and dramatically elevated spo0A transcript levels and displayed a bimodal pattern of spo0A transcription similar to that of B. subtilis. Microscopic studies indicated that sporulation was both enhanced and accelerated due to spo0A overexpression compared to that of both the 824(pIMP1) and parental strains. Consistent with that, expression of the key solvent formation genes (aad-ctfA-ctfB and adc) and three sporulation-specific genes (spoIIGA, sigE, and sigG) was observed earlier in strain 824(pMSPOA) than in the plasmid control. These data support the hypothesis that Spo0A is a transcriptional regulator that positively controls sporulation and solvent production. Its effect on solvent formation is a balancing act in regulating sporulation versus solvent gene expression: its overexpression apparently tips the balance in favor of accelerated and enhanced sporulation at the expense of overall solvent production.