To study the functions of the 13 gvp genes, gvpMLKJIHGFEDACN, on plasmid pNRC100 of Halobacterium halobium in gas vesicle formation, we carried out linker scanning mutagenesis of the gene cluster. We constructed a 24.5-kb Escherichia coli-H. halobium shuttle plasmid, pFL2, containing the gvp gene cluster and introduced a kanamycin resistance (kappa) cassette into each gene (except for gvpA). Transformation of H. halobium SD109, which had the entire gvp gene cluster deleted, with pFL2 and mutated pFL2 derivatives showed that while the unmutated gene cluster successfully programmed gas vesicle formation, derivatives with insertion of the kappa cassette in any of the gvp genes, except gvpM, did not lead to production of normal gas vesicles. Insertions in gvpL, -K, -J, -I, and -F resulted in a complete block in gas vesicle synthesis, while insertions in gvpH, -G, -E, -D, -C, and -N resulted in greatly reduced gas vesicle synthesis. In most cases, the block in gas vesicle synthesis did not result from polar effects, since similar results were obtained for derivatives of the insertion mutants in which most of the internal portion of the kappa cassette was deleted and only small (15 to 54-bp) insertions remained. The only exceptions were for gvpH and gvpD, where deletion of the internal portion of the kappa insertions resulted in phenotypic reversion. Electron microscopic analysis of the kappa mutants revealed that interruptions of gvpC and gvpN result in the formation of smaller gas vesicle than in the wild type, while interruptions of gvpF, -G, -H, -J, -K, and -L produce no discernible vesicle intermediates. These results indicate the gvpA, -C, and -N, which have the rightward transcriptional orientation, encode structural proteins, with gvpC and gvpN necessary for late stages of vesicle formation, and gvpL, -K, -J, -I, -H, -G, and -F, which have the leftward transcriptional orientation encode proteins involved in early steps in the assembly of gas vesicles.