The control of ribosomal RNA transcription is one of the most enduring issues in molecular microbiology, having been subjected to intense scrutiny for over 50 years. Rapid changes in rRNA expression occur during transitions in the bacterial growth cycle and following nutritional shifts during exponential growth. Genetic approaches and measurements of initiating nucleoside triphosphate (iNTP) and guanosine 5'-diphosphate, 3'-diphosphate (ppGpp) concentrations and of rRNA promoter activities showed that rapid changes in the concentrations of iNTPs and ppGpp account for the rapid changes in rRNA expression. The two regulatory signals are nonredundant: changes in iNTP concentration dominate regulation during outgrowth from stationary phase, whereas changes in ppGpp concentration are responsible for regulation following upshifts and downshifts during exponential phase. The results suggest a molecular logic for the use of two homeostatic regulatory mechanisms to monitor different aspects of ribosome activity and provide general insights into the nature of overlapping regulatory circuits.