The genetic determinant for abortive infection of bacteriophage (Abi) from the lactococcal plasmid pCI829 was cloned on a 6.2 kb StuI fragment in Escherichia coli using the shuttle vector pSA3. In Lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis MG1363Sm the resulting recombinant plasmid pCI816 conferred complete insensitivity to the small isometric-headed phage 712 and a reduced plaque size in the case of the prolate-headed phage c2. The determinant was further localized by subcloning and nuclease Bal31 deletion analysis; approximately 2.0 kb of DNA was essential for the expression of the Abi+ phenotype. Nucleotide sequence analysis of this region revealed a putative open reading frame of 1887 base pairs preceded by a putative promotor sequence and ribosome-binding site which exhibited similarity to consensus E. coli and Bacillus subtilis transcription/translation signals. Hybridization experiments indicated that this region was not homologous to the abi determinant from the phenotypically similar lactococcal plasmid pCI750.