Evidence for pleiotropic activation of virulence genes in Listeria monocytogenes is presented. A complementation study of a spontaneous prfA-deletion mutant and analysis of cassette and transposon insertion mutants showed that the gene prfA activates the transcription of four independent genes which code for a phosphatidyl-inositol-specific phospholipase C (gene plcA), listeriolysin O (gene hlyA), a metallo-protease (gene prtA) and a lecithinase (gene prtC). Transcription of prfA is not constitutive. During the growth phase, two peaks of prfA transcript accumulation were observed: the first was during exponential growth, and the second was at the beginning of the stationary phase. In addition, two prfA-specific transcripts of 2.2 kb and 1 kb are detected. Early in exponential growth, prfA is co-transcribed with plcA which lies upstream prfA, giving rise to the 2.2 kb plcA-prfA transcript. In late-exponential growth and at the beginning of the stationary phase, prfA transcripts of 1 kb are predominantly detected. Our results demonstrate that since prfA controls plcA transcription, it also regulates its own synthesis.