Certain amino acids, and cysteine in particular, promptly blocked toxin expression in Clostridium difficile strain VPI 10463 when added to late-exponential-phase peptone-yeast cultures, i.e. prior to normal induction of toxins A and B. Glucose reduced toxin yields by 80-fold, but only when supplemented at inoculation. Forty upregulated C. difficile proteins were identified during maximum toxin expression, and most of these were enzymes involved in energy exchange, e.g. succinate, CO/folate and butyrate metabolism. Transcription of tcdA (toxin operon) and folD (CO/folate operon) was induced by 20- and 10-fold, respectively, and with strikingly similar kinetics between OD 0.8 and 1.2. The sigma factors tcdR and sigH were upregulated simultaneously with tcdA and folD (3.5-fold increase of mRNA level), whereas transcription of tcdC, codY, sigB and sigL showed little or no correlation with that of tcdA and folD. The results suggest a connection between toxin expression, alternative energy metabolism and initial sporulation events in C. difficile.