Conjugal transfer of Agrobacterium tumefaciens Ti plasmids is regulated by two hierarchical signalling systems. Transfer is dependent on a subset of opines produced by the plant tumours induced by the bacterium. Induction also requires an acyl-homoserine lactone signal, called AAI, that is produced by the bacteria themselves. AAI is the co-inducer for TraR, the transcriptional activator required for expression of the tra regulon. Octopine induces conjugation of the octopine-mannityl opine-type Ti plasmids by regulating the expression of traR via OccR, the octopine-dependent activator of the opine regulon. We have discovered a second traR-like gene, trlR, on the octopine-mannityl opine-type Ti plasmids pTi15955 and pTiR10. This gene is located in an operon coding for a mannopine transport system and is expressed as part of the mannityl opine regulon. Sequence analysis indicated that trlR is a frameshift allele of traR, and the resulting protein lacks the carboxy-terminal domain thought to constitute the DNA-binding region of TraR. Expression of trlR inhibited octopine-induced conjugation of pTi15955 and pTiR10 by suppressing the TraR-mediated transcription of the tra and trb operons. Although TrlR had no effect on the expression of traR, TraR activated the expression of trlR. Southern hybridizations indicated that several other Ti and opine-catabolic plasmids contain more than one copy of genes homologous to traR. We propose that trlR is a dominant negative allele of traR and that TrlR inhibits conjugation by forming inactive heteromultimers with TraR.