Luminescence in Vibrio fischeri is controlled by a population density-responsive regulatory mechanism called quorum sensing. Elements of the mechanism include: LuxI, an acyl-homoserine lactone (acyl-HSL) synthase that directs synthesis of the diffusible signal molecule, 3-oxo-hexanoyl-HSL (V. fischeri autoinducer-1, VAI-1); LuxR, a transcriptional activator protein necessary for response to VAI-1; GroEL, which is necessary for production of active LuxR; and AinS, an acyl-HSL synthase that catalyzes the synthesis of octanoyl-HSL (VAI-2). The population density-dependent accumulation of VAI-1 triggers induction of lux operon (luxICDABEG; genes for luminescence enzymes and for LuxI) transcription and luminescence by binding to LuxR, forming a complex that facilitates the association of RNA polymerase with the luxoperon promoter. VAI-2, which apparently interferes with VAI-1 binding to LuxR, operates to limit premature luxoperon induction. Hierarchical control is imposed on the system by 3':5'-cyclic AMP (cAMP) and cAMP receptor protein (CRP), which are necessary for activated expression of luxR. Several non-lux genes in V. fischeri are controlled by LuxR and VAI-1. Quorum regulation in V. fischeri serves as a model for LuxI/LuxR-type quorum sensing systems in other gram-negative bacteria.