Cell division in Escherichia coli requires the products of the ftsQ, ftsA and ftsZ genes. It is not known how the cell regulates the cellular concentrations of these essential elements of the division system. We describe here a factor that activates cell division by specifically increasing transcription from one of the two promoters that lie immediately upstream of the ftsQAZ gene cluster. The trans-acting factor is the product of the sdiA gene, which was isolated on the basis of its ability to suppress the division inhibitory effect of the MinC/MinD division inhibitor. In addition, the sdiA gene product suppressed the action of other chromosomally encoded division inhibitors, induced minicell formation in wild type cells, and restored division activity to an ftsZ temperature-sensitive mutant grown under nonpermissive conditions. All of these properties were explained by the ability of the sdiA gene product specifically to increase transcription of the ftsQAZ gene cluster, resulting in an increase in cellular concentration of the FtsZ protein. The sdiA gene product is the first factor thus far identified that specifically regulates expression of this key group of cell division genes.