The TyrR protein of Escherichia coli can act both as a repressor and as an activator of transcription. It can interact with each of the three aromatic amino acids, with ATP and, under certain circumstances, with the C-terminal region of the alpha-subunit of RNA polymerase. TyrR protein is a dimer in solution but in the presence of tyrosine and ATP it self-associates to form a hexamer. Whereas TyrR dimers can, in the absence of any aromatic amino acids, bind to certain recognition sequences referred to as 'strong TyrR boxes', hexamers can bind to extended sequences including lower-affinity sites called 'weak TyrR boxes', some of which overlap the promoter. There is no single mechanism for repression, which in some cases involves exclusion of RNA polymerase from the promoter and in others, interference with the ability of bound RNA polymerase to form open complexes or to exit the promoter. When bound to a site upstream of certain promoters, TyrR protein in the presence of phenylalanine, tyrosine or tryptophan can interact with the alpha-subunit of RNA polymerase to activate transcription. In one unusual case, activation of a non-productive promoter is used to repress transcription from a promoter on the opposite strand. Regulation of individual transcription units within the regulon reflects their physiological function and is determined by the position and nature of the recognition sites (TyrR boxes) associated with each of the promoters. The intracellular levels of the various forms of the TyrR protein are also postulated to be of critical importance in determining regulatory outcomes. TyrR protein remains a paradigm for a regulator that is able to interact with multiple cofactors and exert a range of regulatory effects by forming different oligomers on DNA and making contact with other proteins. A recent analysis identifying putative TyrR boxes in the E. coli genome raises the possibility that the TyrR regulon may extend beyond the well-characterized transcription units described in this review.