Protein production under the control of lac operon regulatory elements using autoinduction is based on diauxic growth of Escherichia coli on lactose after consumption of more preferred carbon substrates. A novel simple and cost-effective defined autoinduction medium using a mixture of glucose, glycerol, and lactose as carbon substrate and NH(4)(+) as sole nitrogen source without any supplementation of amino acids and vitamins was developed for T7-based E. coli expression systems. This medium was successfully employed in 96-well microtiter plates, test tubes, shake flasks, and 15-L bioreactor cultivations for production of different types of proteins achieving an average yield of 500 mg L(-1) product. Cell-specific protein concentrations and solubility were similar as during conventional isopropyl β-D-1-thiogalactopyranoside induction using Luria-Bertani broth. However, the final yield of target proteins was about four times higher, as a higher final biomass was achieved using this novel defined autoinduction broth.