A plasmid was constructed that facilitates the cloning and expression of open reading frame DNA. A DNA fragment containing a bacterial promoter and the amino terminus of the cI gene of bacteriophage lambda was fused to an amino-terminally deleted version of the lacZ gene. An appropriate cloning site was inserted between these two fragments such that a frameshift mutation was introduced upstream of the lacZ-encoding DNA. This cloning vehicle produces a relatively low level of beta-galactosidase activity when introduced into Escherichia coli. The insertion of foreign DNA at the cloning site can reverse the frameshift mutation and generate plasmids that produce a relatively high level of beta-galactosidase activity. A large fraction of these plasmids produce a fusion protein that has a portion of the lambda cI protein at the amino terminus, the foreign protein segment in the middle, and the lacZ polypeptide at the carboxyl terminus. The production of a high level of beta-galactosidase and a large fusion polypeptide guarantees the cloning of a DNA fragment with at least one open reading frame that traverses the entirety of the fragment. Hence, the method can identify, clone, and express (as part of a larger fusion polypeptide) open reading frame DNA from among a large collection of DNA fragments.