Erwinia carotovora and Pseudomonas aeruginosa secrete exoenzymes that contribute to the pathogenesis of plant and mammalian infections respectively. E.carotovora mutants defective in synthesis of the pectinase, cellulase and protease exoenzymes were isolated and classified into two groups. Group 2 mutants were found to be defective in the production of a small freely diffusible molecule, N-3-(oxohexanoyl)-L-homoserine, lactone (HSL), and were avirulent. Addition of exogenous HSL to these group 2 mutants restores synthesis of the exoenzymes and virulence in planta. Of the exoenzymes of P.aeruginosa the metalloprotease, elastase, is an established virulence determinant. Mutants of P.aeruginosa that are defective in elastase production have been isolated and were again found to fall into two groups. Analogous to the group 2 mutants of E.carotovora, group 2 mutants of P. aeruginosa are defective in the synthesis of HSL and exogenous HSL restores elastase production. HSL has now been linked to the control of bioluminescence in Vibrio fischeri, carbapenem antibiotic production of E.carotovora and the above exoenzyme virulence determinants. This information significantly enhances our understanding of the extent and nature of pheromone mediated gene expression control in prokaryotes.