In bacteria, adaptive responses to environmental stimuli are often initiated by two-component signal transduction systems (TCS). The prototypical TCS comprises two proteins: a histidine kinase (HK, hk) and a response regulator (RR rr). Recent research has suggested that compounds that inhibit two-component systems might have good antibacterial activity. In order to identify TCS that are crucial for growth or virulence of Streptococcus pneumoniae, we have examined the genomic sequence of a virulent S. pneumoniae strain for genes that are related to known histidine kinases or response regulators. Altogether 13 histidine kinases and 13 response regulators have been identified. The protein sequences encoded by these genes were compared with sequences deposited in public databases. This analysis revealed that two of the 13 pneumococcal TCSs have been described before (ciaRH and comDE) and two are homologous to the yycFG and the phoRP genes of Bacillus subtilis. All the pneumococcal response regulators contain putative DNA binding motifs within the C-terminal output domain, implying that they are involved in transcriptional control. Two of these response regulators are obviously the first representatives of a new subfamily containing an AraC-type DNA-binding effector domain. To assess the regulatory role of these transcription factors, we disrupted each of the 13 response regulator genes by insertional mutagenesis. All the viable mutant strains with disrupted response regulator genes were further characterized with regard to growth in vitro, competence, and experimental virulence. Two response regulator genes could not be inactivated, indicating that they may regulate essential cellular functions. The possibility of using these systems as targets for the development of novel antibacterials will be discussed.