A low-copy-number vector designated pTCV-lac has been constructed to provide a convenient system to analyze regulatory elements in Gram-positive bacteria. The main components of this vector are: (i) the origins of replication of pACYC184 and of the broad-host-range enterococcal plasmid pAM beta 1, (ii) erythromycin- and kanamycin-resistance-encoding genes for selection in Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria, (iii) the transfer origin of the IncP plasmid RK2, and (iv) a promoterless beta-galactosidase-encoding lacZ gene with a Gram-positive ribosome binding site. This 12 kb plasmid is present in Gram-positive hosts in three to five copies per chromosome equivalent and contains three unique cloning sites (EcoRI, SmaI, BamHI) for cloning of DNA inserts upstream of the lacZ gene. Plasmid pTCV-lac and derivatives carrying different promoter fragments have been transferred by conjugation from an Escherichia coli IncP mobilizing donor strain to Bacillus subtilis, Listeria monocytogenes, Enterococcus faecalis, and Streptococcus agalactiae. These plasmids were structurally stable in these hosts and the corresponding promoter activities, quantitated by the determination of the beta-galactosidase specific activities, were found to cover at least a 100-fold range in beta-galactosidase values. These results indicate that pTCV-lac should be useful for analysis of gene regulation in a wide range of Gram-positive bacteria.