A method is described for deletion mapping of essential genes in Escherichia coli. It involves the isolation of secondary-site insertions of lambda cI857plac5 into an F' plasmid. The transposed lacZ gene is useful both for the ready screening of plasmid-phage cointegrates and for rapid analysis of deletions that extend from the site of phage integration into the bacterial genes carried on the substituted plasmid. Such deletions may be used to 'hook-up' bacterial cistrons to the powerful lac promoter. We report the application of this technique to the study of the btuB-rpoBC interval, a cluster of genes encoding components of the transcription-translation apparatus.