Replication of mini-F plasmid requires the plasmid-encoded RepE initiator protein and several host factors including DnaJ, DnaK, and GrpE, heat shock proteins of Escherichia coli. The RepE protein plays a crucial role in replication and exhibits two major functions: initiation of replication from the origin, ori2, and autogenous repression of repE transcription. One of the mini-F plasmid mutants that can replicate in the dnaJ-defective host produces an altered RepE (RepE54) with a markedly enhanced initiator activity but little or no repressor activity. RepE54 has been purified from cell extracts primarily in monomeric form, unlike the wild-type RepE that is recovered in dimeric form. Gel-retardation assays revealed that RepE54 monomers bind to ori2 (direct repeats) with a very high efficiency but hardly bind to the repE operator (inverted repeat), in accordance with the properties of RepE54 in vivo. Furthermore, the treatment of wild-type RepE dimers with protein denaturants enhanced their binding to ori2 but reduced binding to the operator: RepE dimers were partially converted to monomers, and the ori2 binding activity was uniquely associated with monomers. These results strongly suggest that RepE monomers represent an active form by binding to ori2 to initiate replication, whereas dimers act as an autogenous repressor by binding to the operator. We propose that RepE is structurally and functionally differentiated and that monomerization of RepE dimers, presumably mediated by heat shock protein(s), activates the initiator function and participates in regulation of mini-F DNA replication.