Horizontal transfer of Agrobacterium tumefaciens tumour-inducing plasmids requires opines, which are released from plant tumours as nutrients for the bacteria. The opine octopine causes synthesis of the quorum-sensing TraR protein, which activates several tra promoters in the presence of a pheromone called Agrobacterium autoinducer (AAI). A gene, traS, was previously found on the same Ti plasmid in an operon that directs the uptake of mannopine, another opine. TraS strongly resembles TraR but lacks a DNA-binding module. TraS did not activate a TraR-dependent promoter and blocked TraR function, probably by forming inactive heteromultimers. Expression of traS was induced by mannopine, although this induction was strongly inhibited by the favoured catabolites succinate, glutamine and tryptone. Mannopine inhibited conjugation in a TraS-dependent fashion, and artificial overexpression of TraS also inhibited conjugation. Favoured catabolites restored tra gene expression in wild-type strains but not in strains that overexpress TraS. Downstream of traS is a gene encoding a truncated, defective chemoreceptor whose expression abolished chemotaxis.