Initiation of transcription at malEp and malKp, two divergent Escherichia coli promoters, depends on the presence of both CRP, a pleiotropic activator, and MalT, the maltose regulon activator. We carried out in vivo genetic and functional analysis of these promoters and characterized their interaction with MalT and CRP using DNase I footprinting. The functional limits of the promoters are located about 240 base-pairs (bp) upstream of their transcription start sites, which are 271 bp apart. These promoters therefore overlap by about 210 bp. The overlapping region encompasses four CRP-binding sites and at least four MalT-binding sites. Insertions in the centre of this region are tolerated provided that they correspond to an integral number of DNA helix turns. In DNase I footprinting experiments performed on the complex formed by MalT with malEp-malKp, the DNA appears to be wrapped around the protein. We propose a model for the nucleoprotein structure that might be involved in transcription activation at these divergent promoters.