Plasmid pSC101 encodes a 37.5 kDa Rep (RepA) protein, which binds to three 21-base repeats (DR-1, DR-2, and DR-3) in the replication origin region (ori) of the plasmid to initiate replication. Rep also binds to two palindromic sequences (IR-1 and IR-2) which overlap the rep promoter. The binding of Rep to IR-2 represses the production of Rep itself. It is highly likely that the balance of these functions of Rep plays a major role in controlling the copy number of pSC101. In this study, we developed a positive-selection system for replication-deficient mutants of the initiator protein. This system can be applied to the study of other replication systems by changing ori and rep of pSC101 to the corresponding genes. Thirty-four replication-deficient (Ini(-)) mutants were isolated with this system, and analyzed as to the relation between the structure and function of the Rep protein. Seventeen of these 34 Ini(-) mutants were found to lack auto-repressor activity as well as initiator activity. DNA sequence analysis showed that one-third (from the C-terminus) of Rep is dispensable for the auto-repressor activity, while the initiator activity seems to require the whole protein.