Expression of the bundle-forming pilus (BFP) of enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC) is regulated at the transcriptional level by growth phase, temperature, calcium and ammonium. Genes required for the transcriptional activation of bfpA were localized to a 1.8 kb fragment of the enteroadherent factor (EAF) plasmid of EPEC that is separated from the bfp operon by 6 kb. Within this fragment three identically oriented and closely spaced open reading frames (ORFs) were identified and designated bfpT, bfpV and bfpW. bfpT is predicted to encode a 31.8 kDa protein that shares homology with the AraC family of transcriptional regulators, including the presence of a conserved C-terminal DNA-binding helix-turn-helix motif. Insertional inactivation of bfpT led to the loss of bfpA transcription, BfpA protein production and the localized adherence (LA) phenotype; this mutant phenotype could be complemented by introduction of bfpTVW and, on separate plasmids, bfpT + bfpW. However, introduction of bfpT + bfpV, bfpV alone, bfpW alone, or bfpV + bfpW did not enable recovery of the wild-type phenotype. Maximal efficiency of bfpA transcription required all three genes, but bfpV and bfpW each enhanced transcription providing bfpT was also present. A series of deletions of the bfpA upstream promoter region was prepared; with respect to the bfpA transcription start site, sequence between nucleotides -94 and -55 was found to bind bfpT. BfpT also bound a DNA fragment containing the eaeA promoter region on the EPEC chromosome. From these results we conclude that bfpTV W causes transcriptional activation of bfpA, and possibly eaeA, by a trans-acting mechanism that may co-ordinately regulate the expression of EPEC virulence determinants.