The molecular organization of the malT region of the Escherichia coli K-12 chromosome has been elucidated by nucleotide sequence studies. A single open reading frame of 901 codons comprises the malT gene which is separated by a repetitive extragenic palindromic unit from an unidentified gene, orfX, divergently oriented with respect to malT. The predicted Mr of the MalT protein is 102988, making it the largest transcriptional regulatory protein yet described in E. coli. By deleting in vitro the 3'-end of the gene or constructing malT-lacZ gene fusions, it was found that the integrity of the C-terminus of MalT is indispensable for the activity of the protein. Furthermore, it was found that truncated MalT proteins lacking up to 300 amino acids at the C-terminus blocked the activity of the wild type protein. No sequence homology can be found either with the other activators known in E. coli or with the other proteins of the maltose regulon.