Synthesis and secretion of the 110kDa haemolysin toxin of Escherichia coli and other pathogenic Gram-negative bacteria are governed by the four genes of the hly operon. We have identified, by transposon mutagenesis, an E. coli cellular locus, hlyT, required for the synthesis and secretion of haemolysin encoded in trans by intact hly operons carrying the hly upstream regulatory region. Mutation of the hlyT locus specifically reduced the level of hlyA structural gene transcript 20-100-fold and thus markedly lowered both intracellular and extracellular levels of the HlyA protein. Genetic and structural analysis of the hlyT locus mapped it at co-ordinate 3680 kbp (minute 87) on the chromosome adjacent to the fadBA operon, and identified it specifically as the rfaH (sfrB) locus which is required for transcription of the genes encoding synthesis of the sex pilus and also the lipopolysaccharide core for attachment of the O-antigen of E. coli and Salmonella. Expression of the hly operon in the E. coli hlyT mutant was restored in trans by both the hlyT and rfaH genes, suggesting that the rfaH gene is an important activator of regulon structures that are central to the fertility and virulence of these pathogenic bacteria. DNA sequencing of the hlyT locus identifies the HlyT/RfaH transcriptional activator as a protein of 162 amino acids (Mr 18325) which shows no identity to characterized transcription factors.