Two small plasmid RK2 derivatives, pSV6 and pSV16, were constructed and used for the isolation and characterization of trfA mutants temperature-sensitive (ts) for replication in Escherichia coli. Four of the mutants were examined for their ability to initiate replication from the RK2 replication origin in E. coli when present in cis with respect to the origin and in trans when present on a multicopy pBR322 replicon. Each of the mutant trfA genes exhibited temperature-sensitivity in supporting replication from the RK2 origin when present in cis, and the lowest nonpermissive temperature varied depending on the mutant. When the mutant trfA genes were present on the multicopy replicon (in trans), three of the four mutant genes could support replication of the RK2-oriV plasmid pSV16 at all temperatures tested. However, with the exception of one of the mutants, the activity was reduced when compared to wild-type. The increased activity in trans possibly is the result of the increased cellular level of the TrfA protein when compared with the in cis situation where the mutant trfA gene is at a much lower copy-number. Two of the mutants also were tested in cis for temperature sensitivity in Pseudomonas aeruginosa. One of the mutants did not exhibit temperature sensitivity under the conditions employed. The second mutant showed some temperature sensitivity but the nonpermissive temperature pattern was different than that found in E. coli.