The mechanism of repression of the tyrB promoter by TyrR protein has been studied in vivo and in vitro. In tyrR+ strains, transcription of tyrB is repressed by either tyrosine or phenylalanine. Both of the TyrR binding sites (strong and weak TyrR boxes) lie downstream of the tyrB transcription start site and are required for tyrosine- or phenylalanine-mediated repression. Our results establish that the binding of the TyrR protein to the weak box, induced by cofactor tyrosine or phenylalanine, is critical for repression to occur. Neither the binding of the TyrR protein dimer formed in the presence of phenylalanine, nor the binding of the hexamer formed in the presence of tyrosine, blocks the binding of RNA polymerase to the promoter. Instead, open complex formation is inhibited in the presence of tyrosine whereas a step(s) following open complex formation is inhibited in the presence of phenylalanine. Moving the TyrR boxes 3 bp or more further away from the promoter affects tyrosine-mediated repression without affecting phenylalanine-mediated repression which remains unaltered until 6 bp are inserted between the TyrR boxes and the promoter. Analysis of deletion and insertion mutants fails to reveal any face of the helix specificity for either tyrosine- or phenylalanine-mediated repression.