Plasmids that replicate using the replication origin (oriC) of the E. coli chromosome are not stably inherited through cell division, but can be stabilized by joining with a particular segment of F plasmid that presumably provides the partition function. The segment necessary for stabilization has been located within a 3.0 kb segment outside of the region essential for autonomous replication of the F plasmid. This segment contains three functionally distinct regions: two of them (designated sopA and sopB) specify gene products that act in trans, whereas the third region (sopC) acts in cis. All three functions seem to be essential for normal partition of the plasmid into daughter cells during cell division. The cis-acting region also specifies plasmid incompatibility.