YbaO is an uncharacterized AsnC-family transcription factor of Escherichia coli. In both Salmonella enterica and Pantoea ananatis, YbaO homologues were identified to regulate the adjacent gene encoding cysteine desulfhydrase for detoxification of cysteine. Using the genomic SELEX (systematic evolution of ligands by exponential enrichment) screening system, we identified the yhaOM operon, located far from the ybaO gene on the E. coli genome, as a single regulatory target of YbaO. In both gel shift assay in vitro and reporter and Northern blot assays in vivo, YbaO was found to regulate the yhaOM promoter. The growth of mutants lacking either ybaO or its targets yhaOM was delayed in the presence of cysteine, indicating involvement of these genes in cysteine detoxification. In the major pathway of cysteine degradation, hydrogen sulfide is produced in wild-type E. coli, but its production was not observed in each of the ybaO, yhaO and yhaM mutants. The yhaOM promoter was activated in the presence of cysteine, implying the role of cysteine in activation of YbaO. Taken together, we propose that YbaO is the cysteine-sensing transcriptional activator of the yhaOM operon, which is involved in the detoxification of cysteine. We then propose the naming of ybaO as decR (regulator of detoxification of cysteine).