Polyketide synthases (PKSs) are multifunctional enzymes that catalyze the biosynthesis of a huge variety of carbon chains differing in their length and patterns of functionality and cyclization.Many polyketides are valuable therapeutic agents. A Streptomyces host-vector system has been developed for efficient construction and expression of recombinant PKSs. Using this expression system, several novel compounds have been synthesized in vivo in significant quantities. Characterization of these metabolites has provided new insights into key features of actinomycete aromatic PKS specificity. Thus, carbon chain length is dictated, at least in part, by a protein that appears to be distinctive to this family of PKSs, whereas the acyl carrier proteins of different PKSs can be interchanged without affecting product structure. A given ketoreductase can recognize and reduce polyketide chains of different length; this ketoreduction always occurs at the C-9 position. The regiospecificity of the first cyclization of the nascent polyketide chain is either determined by the ketoreductase, or the chain-extending enzymes themselves. However, the regiospecificity of the second cyclization is determined by a distinct cyclase, which can discriminate between substrates of different chain lengths.