A mutation (dicA1) of a repressor gene located in the terminus region of the Escherichia coli chromosome has previously been shown to lead to temperature-dependent inhibition of division, and to be complemented by plasmids carrying either dicA or an adjacent gene dicC. In this study, operon fusions in the region coding for the division inhibition gene dicB have been used to show that temperature sensitivity does not result from high temperature inactivation of the dicA repressor. Sequence comparisons indicate that dicA and dicC are similar to genes c2 and cro respectively of bacteriophage P22, and carry similarly organized tandem operators, indicating a common evolutionary origin for dicAC and P22 immC. Nevertheless, the consensus half-operator sequence of dicAC, TGTTA-GYYA, differs significantly from that of P22 immC (ATT-TAAGAN). An analysis of the in vivo control of promoters dicAp, dicBp and dicCp placed upstream of malQ shows that the dicAC system is functionally similar to that of an immunity region, with the possible exception of an absence of pairwise cooperative binding. Our results also indicate that the dicA1 mutation causes a switch to permanent control by dicC at all temperatures.