We constructed a family of lambda phage and plasmid vectors which facilitate cloning and quantitative analysis of transcriptional regulator in both single and multiple copies. Their expression system was modified from the ara-trp-lac fusion operon of plasmid pMC81 [Casadaban and Cohen, J. Mol. Biol. 138 (1980) 179-207], which is designed to assay both promoters and terminators with a single vehicle. To eliminate transcriptional and translational polar effects liable to occur in the original fusion operon upon insertion of a foreign nucleotide sequence, intracistronic Rho-dependent terminators, that are present within the trpB gene and distal to the cloning site were deleted, and DNA spacers containing stop codons were introduced immediately before and after the cloning site. In analysis of the cloned trp regulatory region, the lambda phage system faithfully reproduced the tight regulation by tryptophan characteristic to the natural trp operon on the E. coli chromosome, whereas the plasmid counterpart exhibited a substantially relaxed response. Comparative studies on the relative strengths of various promoters and terminators have further demonstrated that the lambda phage vector system permits accurate assays of exceptionally strong promoters like Ptrp and lambda pL without disturbing the bacterial growth, while being sensitive enough for detecting low-level transcription under the control of weak promoters or potent terminators. Cloning with the lambda phage vector can be greatly facilitated by transferring the target regulatory site precloned with the plasmid onto the phage genome through in vivo recombination.