The accessory genes of Staphylococcus aureus, including those involved in pathogenesis, are controlled by a complex regulatory network that includes at least four two-component systems, one of which, agr, is a quorum sensor, an alternative sigma factor and a large set of transcription factors, including at least two of the superantigen genes, tst and seb. These regulatory genes are hypothesized to act in a time- and population density-dependent manner to integrate signals received from the external environment with the internal metabolic machinery of the cell, in order to achieve the production of particular subsets of accessory/virulence factors at the time and in quantities that are appropriate to the needs of the organism at any given location. From the standpoint of pathogenesis, the regulatory agenda is presumably tuned to particular sites in the host organism. To address this hypothesis, it will be necessary to understand in considerable detail the regulatory interactions among the organism's numerous controlling systems. This review is an attempt to integrate a large body of data into the beginnings of a model that will hopefully help to guide research towards a full-scale test.