We describe a remarkably conserved nucleotide sequence, the many copies of which may occupy up to 1% of the genomes of E. coli and S. typhimurium. This sequence, the REP (repetitive extragenic palindromic) sequence, is about 35 nucleotides long, includes an inverted repeat, and can occur singly or in multiple adjacent copies. A possible role for the REP sequences in regulation of gene expression has been thoroughly investigated. While the REP sequences do not appear to modulate differential gene expression within an operon, they can affect the expression of both upstream and downstream genes to a small extent, probably by affecting the rate of mRNA degradation. Possible roles for the REP sequence in mRNA degradation, chromosome structure, and recombination are discussed.