The function of the PrpR protein of Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium LT2 was studied in vitro and in vivo. The PrpR protein is a sensor of 2-methylcitrate (2-MC), an intermediate of the 2-methylcitric acid cycle used by this bacterium to convert propionate to pyruvate. PrpR was unresponsive to citrate (a close structural analogue of 2-MC) and to propionate, suggesting that 2-MC, not propionate, is the metabolite that signals the presence of propionate in the environment to S. enterica. prpR alleles encoding mutant proteins with various levels of 2-MC-independent activity were isolated. All lesions causing constitutive PrpR activity were mapped to the N-terminal domain of the protein. Removal of the entire sensing domain resulted in a protein (PrpR(c)) with the highest 2-MC-independent activity. Residue A162 is critical to 2-MC sensing, since the mutant PrpR protein PrpR(A162T) was as active as the PrpR(c) protein in the absence of 2-MC. DNA footprinting studies identified the site in the region between prpR and the prpBCDE operon to which the PrpR protein binds. Analysis of the binding-site sequence revealed two sites with dyad symmetry. Results from DNase I footprinting assays suggested that the PrpR protein may have higher affinity for the site proximal to the P(prpBCDE) promoter.