Group A colicins need proteins of the Escherichia coli envelope Tol complex (TolA, TolB, TolQ and TolR) to reach their cellular target. The N-terminal domain of colicins is involved in the import process. The N-terminal domains of colicins A and E1 have been shown to interact with TolA, and the N-terminal domain of colicin E3 has been shown to interact with TolB. We found that a pentapeptide conserved in the N-terminal domain of all group A colicins, the 'TolA box', was important for colicin A import but was not involved in the colicin A-TolA interaction. It was, however, involved in the colicin A-TolB interaction. The interactions of colicin A N-terminal domain deletion mutants with TolA and TolB were investigated. Random mutagenesis was performed on a construct allowing the colicin A N-terminal domain to be exported in the bacteria periplasm. This enabled us to select mutant protein domains unable to compete with the wild-type domain of the entire colicin A for import into the cells. Our results demonstrate that different regions of the colicin A N-terminal domain interact with TolA and TolB. The colicin A N-terminal domain was also shown to form a trimeric complex with TolA and TolB.