Vitamin B1 in its active form thiamin pyrophosphate is an essential coenzyme that is synthesized by coupling of pyrimidine (hydroxymethylpyrimidine; HMP) and thiazole (hydroxyethylthiazole) moieties in bacteria. Using comparative analysis of genes, operons, and regulatory elements, we describe the thiamin biosynthetic pathway in available bacterial genomes. The previously detected thiamin-regulatory element, thi box (Miranda-Rios, J., Navarro, M., and Soberon, M. (2001) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A. 98, 9736-9741), was extended, resulting in a new, highly conserved RNA seeondary structure, the THI element, which is widely distributed in eubacteria and also occurs in some archaea. Search for THI elements and analysis of operon structures identified a large number of new candidate thiamin-regulated genes, mostly transporters, in various prokaryotie organisms. In particular, we assign the thiamin transporter function to yuaJ in the Bacillus/Clostridium group and the HMP transporter function to an ABC transporter thiXYZ in some proteobacteria and firmicutes. By analogy to the model of regulation of the riboflavin biosynthesis, we suggest thiamin-mediated regulation based on formation of alternative RNA structures involving the THI element. Either transcriptional or translational attenuation mechanism may operate in different taxonomic groups, dependent on the existence of putative hairpins that either act as transcriptional terminators or sequester translation initiation sites. Based oh analysis of co-occurrence of the thiamin biosynthetic genes in complete genomes, we predict that eubacteria, archaea, and eukaryota have different pathways for the HMP and hydroxyethylthiazole biosynthesis.