The Escherichia coli cytotoxic necrotizing factor 1 (CNF1) is organized into three functional domains: the N-terminal part containing the cell-binding domain, a putative central membrane-spanning region, and a C-terminal catalytic region. On the basis of competition assays between CNF1 and GST-recombinant proteins containing different N-terminal fragments, and point mutations, we restricted the binding region to the first 190 amino acids. Hydrophilic amino acids 53-75 are strictly necessary to cell receptor recognition. Using different cnf1-lacZ translational fusions, we demonstrated that the mRNA corresponding to the first 48 codons of cnf1 is involved in the translational regulation of CNF1 synthesis. This regulation consists of both a positive and a negative control. The positive control is exerted by codons 6-20, including a putative downstream box that enhances the translational expression of cnf1. The negative control depends on codons 45-48. In this region, an anti-Shine-Dalgarno sequence, highly homologous to the core of the internal complementary sequence already reported for growth rate-regulated metabolic genes, has been detected. To some extent, the inner structural organization of CNF1 would thus suggest the compiling of several functions in a single mRNA protein system.