Activity binding specifically to the 22 bp of the DNA replication terminus (ter) sequence on plasmid R6K and the Escherichia coli genome was detected in the crude extract of E. coli cells. This activity was inactivated by heat or by protease but not by RNase treatments. Overproduction of the ter binding activity was observed when the extract was prepared from the cell carrying a plasmid with a chromosomal-derived 5.0 kb EcoRI fragment, on which one of the four terC sites, terC2, was also located. By mutagenesis of the 5.0 kb fragment on the plasmid with transposon Tn3 and subsequent replacement of the corresponding chromosomal region with the resulting mutant alleles, we isolated tau- mutants completely defective in ter binding activity. These mutants simultaneously lost the activity to block the progress of the DNA replication fork at any ter site, on the genome or the plasmid. It would thus appear that the ter binding protein plays an essential role in the termination reaction, at the ter sites.