The effects of guanosine tetraphosphate (ppGpp) and pyrimidine ribonucleoside triphosphates on Escherichia coli aspartate transcarbamylase (ATCase) synthesis were examined. To determine the effect of ppGpp, a stringent (relA+) and relaxed (relA) isogenic pair of E. coli K-12 strains was starved for isoleucine, and the residual rate of synthesis of this enzyme was measured. It was necessary to starve the strains for uracil before the isoleucine limitation to maintain similar, low levels of UTP, the putative pyrimidine effector of ATCase synthesis. The isoleucine starvation of the stringent strain caused an immediate 10-fold increase in the intracellular concentration of ppGpp, which was coincident with the cessation of the synthesis of the enzyme. The elevated level of ppGpp then decayed until it reached an intracellular concentration similar to that found in unstarved cells. Enzyme synthesis resumed at this time. In the relaxed strain, the intracellular concentration of ppGpp did not increase upon isoleucine starvation and synthesis of the enzyme was not repressed. These experiments strongly indicated that ppGpp acts as a negative effector of ATCase synthesis. The repression of ATCase synthesis by ppGpp was demonstrated directly by using a Salmonella typhimurium (relA) in vitro coupled transcription-translation system with a lambda specialized transducing phage carrying the E. coli K-12 operon encoding the subunits of this enzyme (pyrBI) as a source of DNA. This in vitro system was also used to measure the effects of UTP and CTP on ATCase synthesis. Increasing the concentration of UTP in the in vitro reaction mixture resulted in strong repression of this synthesis, whereas increasing the CTP concentration did not affect synthesis significantly. Possible mechanisms for the regulation of pyr gene expression, including attenuation control, are discussed.