The location and function of recognized cortex-lytic enzymes of Bacillus subtilis have been explored, and the involvement in germination of a number of related proteins tested. The SleB and CwlJ proteins are cortex-lytic enzymes, partially redundant in function, that are required together for effective cortex hydrolysis during B. subtilis spore germination. Spores were fractionated, and Western blotting of individual fractions suggests that the CwlJ protein is localized exclusively to the outer layers, or integument. The second spore-lytic enzyme, SleB, is localized both in the inner membrane of the spore and in the integument fraction. Neither protein changes location or size as the spore germinates. The ypeB gene is the second gene in a bicistronic operon with sleB. The SleB protein is absent from ypeB mutant spores, suggesting that YpeB is required for its localization or stabilization. In fractions of wild-type spores, the YpeB protein is found in the same locations as SleB - in both the inner membrane and the integument. As the absence of CwlJ protein does not affect the overall RP-HPLC profile of peptidoglycan fragments in germinating spores, this enzyme's hydrolytic specificity could not be defined. The effects of inactivation of several homologues of cortex-lytic enzymes of as yet undefined function were examined, by testing null mutants for their germination behaviour by OD(600) fall and by RP-HPLC of peptidoglycan fragments from dormant and germinating spores. The YaaH enzyme is responsible for a likely epimerase modification of peptidoglycan during spore germination, but the loss of this activity does not appear to affect the spore's ability to complete germination. Unlike the other cortex-lytic enzymes, the YaaH protein is present in large amounts in the spore germination exudate of B. subtilis. Mutants lacking either YdhD or YvbX, both homologues of YaaH, had no detectable alteration in either dormant or germinating spore peptidoglycan, and germinated normally. The ykvT gene, which encodes a protein of the SleB/CwlJ family, has no apparent association with germination: the gene is expressed in vegetative cells, and mutants lacking YkvT have no detectable phenotype.