The toxR gene encodes a transcriptional activator controlling cholera toxin, pilus, and outer-membrane protein expression in V. cholerae. Nucleotide sequence and mutational analysis has identified the toxR gene product as a 32,527 dalton protein. Hydropathicity analysis of the derived amino acid sequence of ToxR predicts a transmembrane structure. The properties of hybrid proteins composed of N-terminal fragments of ToxR fused to the periplasmic enzyme alkaline phosphatase provide additional evidence for the transmembrane topology of the ToxR protein. These fusion proteins also allowed the localization of the transcriptional activation and DNA binding domains of the ToxR protein to its cytoplasmically located N-terminal portion. DNA binding assays and a deletion analysis of the cholera toxin promoter support a model for transcriptional activation that involves ToxR binding to a tandemly repeated 7 bp DNA sequence 56 bp upstream of the transcriptional start point.