Sequences flanking residue-168 of the mouse rRNA gene are essential to direct efficient transcription in transfected cells and are stimulatory in vitro on closed circular templates. This promoter domain evidently functions by the unprecedented mechanism of terminating polymerase I-directed transcripts. It inhibits transcripts from reading into the initiation region, acting cotranscriptionally to end these RNAs at residue--182 and release them from the template. Most likely, polymerases on tandem genomic rRNA genes are not released upon completing each 40-47S transcript, but traverse the entire spacer to the next promoter-terminator, where they are made available and positioned to favor reinitiation. Through such polymerase recycling, plus the binding of free polymerase, the rDNA promoters could achieve their characteristically high level of transcription.