It was demonstrated previously that a mutation, rpoA341, in the gene encoding the alpha subunit of Escherichia coli RNA polymerase prevents lysogenization by bacteriophage lambda. The rpoA341 allele is known to be responsible for impaired transcription of some positively regulated E. coli chromosomal operons. Here we demonstrate that the inhibition of lysogenization of the rpoA341 mutant is a result of drastically decreased transcription from positively regulated phage promoters. We were unable to detect any transcripts originating from the CII-activated pE, pI and paQ promoters (important for lysogenic development) in the phage-infected rpoA341 mutant, in contrast to an otherwise isogenic rpoA+ strain. The results are discussed in the light of other reports showing that activation of the pE promoter by CII protein in vitro is decreased only about fivefold when the native alpha subunit is replaced by truncated alpha polypeptides.