In Caulobacter crescentus the partitioning proteins ParA and ParB operate a molecular switch that couples chromosome partitioning to cytokinesis. Homologues of these proteins have been shown to be important for the stable inheritance of F-plasmids and the prophage form of bacteriophage P1. In C. crescentus, ParB binds to sequences adjacent to the origin of replication and is required for the initiation of cell division. Additionally, ParB influences the nucleotide-bound state of ParA by acting as a nucleotide exchange factor. Here we have performed a genetic analysis of the chromosome partitioning protein ParB. We show that C. crescentus ParB, like its plasmid homologues, is composed of three domains: a carboxyl-terminal dimerization domain; a central DNA-binding, helix–turn–helix domain; and an amino-terminal domain required for the interaction with ParA. In vivo expression of amino-terminally deleted parB alleles has a dominant lethal effect resulting in the inhibition of cell division. Fluorescent in situ hybridization experiments indicate that this phenotype is not caused by a chromosome partitioning defect, but by the reversal of the amounts of ATP- versus ADP- bound ParA inside the cell. We present evidence suggesting that amino-terminally truncated and full-length, wild-type ParB form heterodimers which fail to interact with ParA, thereby reversing the intracellular ParA-ATP to ParA-ADP ratio. We hypothesize that the amino-terminus of ParB is required to regulate the nucleotide exchange of ParA which, in turn, regulates the initiation of cell division.