According to our present understanding, lambda repressor bound to DNA stimulates transcription by touching RNA polymerase bound at an adjacent promoter. The part of repressor required for activation was identified in part by the isolation of mutants specifically impaired in transcriptional activation. The amino acids of repressor altered in these "positive control" mutants lie in an acidic patch on the surface of repressor that is closely apposed to RNA polymerase. In this study, we show that this "activating patch" of repressor is sufficient for transcriptional activation in another sequence context. We transfer this activating patch onto the surface of lambda Cro, a protein normally unable to activate transcription, and show that the modified Cro is a transcriptional activator. In addition, we provide evidence that the repressor protein of phage 434 also activates transcription using an activating patch similar to that of lambda repressor.