Ac encodes the 807 amino acid ORFa protein which binds specifically to multiple AAACGG motifs that are subterminally located in both ends of Ac. The wild-type ORFa protein and a number of deletion and amino acid exchange mutants were expressed in Escherichia coli, renatured and used for mobility shift assays. At least 136 amino acids from the N-terminus and 537 C-terminal amino acids may be removed from the ORFa protein without destroying the DNA binding domain, whereas a protein starting at amino acid 189 is DNA binding deficient. Certain basic amino acids between positions 190 and 200 are essential for DNA binding, as their substitution with uncharged amino acids leads to the loss of this function. The DNA binding domain of ORFa protein has an overall basic character, but no obvious sequence homology to any other known DNA binding protein. The homologies to the major open reading frames of transposable elements Tam3 from Antirrhinum majus and Hobo from Drosophila are found between the C-terminal two thirds of the three proteins. The ORFa protein forms discrete complexes with target DNA that appear, depending on the protein concentration, as a 'ladder' of bands on gels, indicating the occupation of target DNA by multiple ORFa protein molecules.