Large and functionally heterogeneous families of transcription factors have complex evolutionary histories. What shapes specificities toward effectors and DNA sites in paralogous regulators is a fundamental question in biology. Bacteria from the deep-branching lineage Thermotogae possess multiple paralogs of the repressor, open reading frame, kinase (ROK) family regulators that are characterized by carbohydrate-sensing domains shared with sugar kinases. We applied an integrated genomic approach to study functions and specificities of regulators from this family. A comparative analysis of 11 Thermotogae genomes revealed novel mechanisms of transcriptional regulation of the sugar utilization networks, DNA-binding motifs and specific functions. Reconstructed regulons for seven groups of ROK regulators were validated by DNA-binding assays using purified recombinant proteins from the model bacterium Thermotoga maritima. All tested regulators demonstrated specific binding to their predicted cognate DNA sites, and this binding was inhibited by specific effectors, mono- or disaccharides from their respective sugar catabolic pathways. By comparing ligand-binding domains of regulators with structurally characterized kinases from the ROK family, we elucidated signature amino acid residues determining sugar-ligand regulator specificity. Observed correlations between signature residues and the sugar-ligand specificities provide the framework for structure functional classification of the entire ROK family.