The cAMP receptor protein (CRP; sometimes known as CAP, the catabolite gene activator protein) and the fumarate and nitrate reduction regulator (FNR) of Escherichia coli are founder members of an expanding superfamily of structurally related transcription factors. The archetypal CRP structural fold provides a very versatile mechanism for transducing environmental and metabolic signals to the transcription machinery. It allows different functional specificities at the sensory, DNA-recognition and RNA-polymerase-interaction levels to be 'mixed and matched' in order to create a diverse range of transcription factors tailored to respond to particular physiological conditions. This versatility is clearly illustrated by comparing the properties of the CRP, FNR and FLP (FNR-like protein) regulators. At the sensory level, the basic structural fold has been adapted in FNR and FLP by the acquisition in the N-terminal region of different combinations of cysteine or other residues; which bestow oxygen/redox sensing mechanisms that are poised according to the oxidative stress thresholds affecting the metabolism of specific bacteria. At the DNA-recognition level, discrimination between distinct but related DNA targets is mediated by amino acid sequence modifications in the conserved core contact between the DNA-recognition helix and target DNA. And, at the level of RNA-polymerase-interaction, different combinations of three discrete regions contacting the polymerase (the activating regions) are used for polymerase recruitment and promoting transcription.