The arginine deiminase system in oral streptococci is highly regulated. It requires induction and is repressed by catabolites such as glucose or by aeration. A comparative study of regulation of the system in Streptococcus gordonii ATCC 10558, Streptococcus rattus FA-1, and Streptococcus sanguis NCTC 10904 showed an increase in activity of the system in S. sanguis of some 1467-fold associated with induction-depression of cells previously uninduced-repressed. The activity of the system was assayed in terms of levels of arginine deiminase, the signature enzyme of the system, in permeabilized cells. Increases in enzyme levels associated with induction-depression were less for the other two organisms, mainly because of less severe repression, especially for S. rattus FA-1, which was the least sensitive to catabolite repression or aeration. Regulation of the arginine deiminase system involving induction and catabolite repression was demonstrated also with monoorganism biofilms composed of cells of S. sanguis adherent to glass slides. Fully uninduced-repressed cells from suspension cultures or biofilms were compromised in their abilities to catabolize arginine to protect themselves against acid damage. However, it was found that the system can be rapidly turned on or turned off, although induction-depression did appear to require cell growth. Still, the system could respond rapidly to the availability of arginine to reestablish high capacity for alkali production.