An RNA polymerase I termination site is found just upstream of the ribosomal gene promoter in mammals and amphibia. It has been suggested that this termination site may actively enhance ribosomal transcription in a process known as readthrough enhancement or that it may simply prevent the disruption of initiation complexes or promoter occlusion. There is, however, a consensus of opinion that the terminator is important for efficient ribosomal transcription. Here we have quantitatively investigated the relative importance of readthrough enhancement and promoter occlusion on the transcription of the microinjected Xenopus laevis ribosomal gene. The results show that, in this system, promoter occlusion is limited and terminator mutations predominantly affect readthrough enhancement. The terminator is shown to be unnecessary for the enhancer activity of the rest of the ribosomal spacer. Model calculations suggest that readthrough enhancement could be explained by polymerase recycling and that it may be unnecessary to postulate a specific mechanism of polymerase handover.