Alt, encoded by the lactococcal phage TP901-1, is needed for late transcription. We identify Alt as a DNA-binding protein, and footprint analysis shows that Alt binds to a region containing four imperfect direct repeats (ALT boxes) located -76 to -32 relative to the P-late transcriptional start site. The importance of the ALT boxes was confirmed by deletion of one or two ALT boxes and by introducing mutations in ALT boxes 1 and 4. Alt is proposed to act as a tetramer or higher multimer activating transcription of TP901-1 late genes by binding to the four ALT boxes, and bending of the DNA may be important for transcriptional activation of P-late. Furthermore, our results suggest that DNA replication may be required for late transcription in TP901-1. Additionally, we identify gp28 of the related lactococcal phage Tuc2009 as an activator and show that the activators required for late transcription in TP901-1 and Tuc2009 are interchangeable. (c) 2005 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.