Caulobacter crescentus cell division is asymmetric and yields distinct swarmer cell and stalked cell progeny. Only the stalked cell initiates chromosomal replication, and the swarmer cell must differentiate into a stalked cell before chromosomal DNA replication can occur. In an effort to understand this developmental control of replication, we employed pulsed-field gel electrophoresis to localize and to isolate the chromosomal origin of replication. The C. crescentus homologues of several Escherichia coli genes are adjacent to the origin in the physical order hemE, origin, dnaA and dnaK,J. Deletion analysis reveals that the minimal sequence requirement for autonomous replication is greater than 430 base-pairs, but less than 720 base-pairs. A plasmid, whose replication relies only on DNA from the C. crescentus origin of replication, has a distinct temporal pattern of DNA synthesis that resembles that of the bona fide C. crescentus chromosome. This implies that cis-acting replication control elements are closely linked to this origin of replication. This DNA contains sequence motifs that are common to other bacterial origins, such as five DnaA boxes, an E. coli-like 13-mer, and an exceptional A + T-rich region. Point mutations in one of the DnaA boxes abolish replication in C. crescentus. This origin also possesses three additional motifs that are unique to the C. crescentus origin of replication: seven 8-mer (GGCCTTCC) motifs, nine 8-mer (AAGCCCGG) motifs, and five 9-mer (GTTAA-n7-TTAA) motifs are present. The latter two motifs are implicated in essential C. crescentus replication functions, because they are contained within specific deletions that abolish replication.