Transcription of the iron-controlled aerobactin operon of the enterobacterial plasmid pColV-K30 is negatively regulated through the interaction of a Fe2+-binding repressor (the Fur protein) with operator sequences within the promoter region of the operon. The DNA sequences essential for interaction with the repressor were located by site-directed mutagenesis of specific regions within the 31 base-pair protected by the repressor from DNase I nicking. Occupation of two contiguous repressor-binding sites appears to be required for the complete repression of the system. Contacts of the Fur repressor with the corresponding operator sequences were analyzed with hydroxyl radical footprint and methylation protection experiments. These indicate that DNA-protein contacts approach a symmetrical mode and take place at all sides of the DNA helix.