The characterization of Tn5 transposon insertional mutants of Agrobacterium vitis strain F2/5 revealed a gene encoding a predicted LysR-type transcriptional regulator, lhnR (for ‘LysR-type regulator associated with HR and necrosis’), and an immediate upstream operon consisting of three open reading frames (lhnABC) required for swarming motility, surfactant production and the induction of a hypersensitive response (HR) on tobacco and necrosis on grape. The operon lhnABC is unique to A. vitis among the sequenced members in Rhizobiaceae. Mutagenesis of lhnR and lhnABC by gene disruption and complementation of ΔlhnR and ΔlhnABC confirmed their roles in the expression of these phenotypes. Mutation of lhnR resulted in complete loss of HR, swarming motility, surfactant production and reduced necrosis, whereas mutation of lhnABC resulted in loss of swarming motility, delayed and reduced HR development and reduced surfactant production and necrosis. The data from promoter–green fluorescent protein (gfp) fusions showed that lhnR suppresses the expression of lhnABC and negatively autoregulates its own expression. It was also shown that lhnABC negatively affects its own expression and positively affects the transcription of lhnR. lhnR and lhnABC constitute a regulatory circuit that coordinates the transcription level of lhnR, resulting in the expression of swarming, surfactant, HR and necrosis phenotypes.