A modified two-component regulatory system consisting of the histidine protein kinase CorS and two highly homologous response regulators, CorR and CorP, controls biosynthesis of the polyketide phytotoxin coronatine (COR) by Pseudomonas syringae pv. glycinea PG4180 in a temperature-dependent manner. COR synthesis is maximal at 18 degrees C but does not occur at 28 degrees C. Fusions of CorR and CorP to the maltose-binding protein (MBP) were overproduced in Escherichia coli and P. syringae PG4180, and tested for functionality by complementation of corR and corP mutants of PG4180, respectively. The cmaABT promoter region was defined by deletion mapping, and the DNA-binding capability of CorR and CorP was examined by gel retardation assays. When overproduced in P. syringae at 18 degrees C and purified, MBP-CorR was shown to bind specifically to a 218-bp DNA fragment corresponding to positions -841 to -623 bp upstream of the transcriptional start site of the cmaABT operon. In contrast, MBP-CorP and MBP itself, when overproduced in P. syringae and E. coli at 18 degrees C and 28 degrees C, respectively, did not bind to the 218-bp fragment or to any other DNA fragment analyzed. The CorP protein lacks typical DNA-binding motifs, suggesting that it might modulate the function of CorR. However, addition of purified MBP-CorP did not alter the DNA-binding activity of MBP-CorR. On the other hand, this activity was completely abolished when MBPCorR was overproduced at 28 degrees C or in a corS mutant, indicating that the binding of CorR depended on the growth temperature at which it was produced and was controlled by CorS. In addition, overproduction of MBP-CorR in a corP mutant of PG4180 also yielded inactive protein, underlining the importance of CorP for CorR activation. We propose that CorR is activated by CorS at low temperature and that CorP is required for this activation before CorR can bind to DNA.