Functional domains of the Escherichia coli F plasmid oriT locus were identified by deletion analysis. DNA sequences required for nicking or transfer were revealed by cloning deleted segments of oriT into otherwise nonmobilizable pUC8 vectors and testing for their ability to promote transfer or to be nicked when tra operon functions were provided in trans. Removal of DNA sequences to the right of the central A + T-rich region (i.e., from the direction of traM) did not affect the susceptibility of oriT to nicking functions; however, transfer efficiency for oriT segments deleted from the right was progressively reduced over an 80- to 100-bp interval. Deletions extending toward the oriT nick site from the left did not affect the frequency of transfer if deletion endpoints lay at least 22 bp away from the nick site. Deletions or insertions in the central, A + T-rich region caused periodic variation in transfer efficiency, indicating that phase relationships between nicking and transfer domains of oriT must be preserved for full oriT function. These data show that the F oriT locus is extensive, with domains that individually contribute to transfer, nicking, and overall structure.