The expression of the nrd operon encoding ribonucleotide reductase in Escherichia coli has been shown to be cell cycle regulated. To identify the cis-acting elements required for the cell cycle regulation of the nrd promoter, different 5' deletions as well as site-directed mutations were translationally fused to lacZ reporter gene. The expression of β- galactosidase from these nrd-lacZ fusions in single-copy plasmids was determined with synchronously growing cultures obtained by repeated phosphate starvation as well as with exponentially growing cultures by flow cytometry analysis. Although Fis and DnaA, two regulatory proteins that bind at multiple sites on the E. coli chromosome, have been found to regulate the nrd promoter, the results in this study demonstrated that neither Fis nor DnaA was required for nrd cell cycle regulation. A cis-acting upstream AT-rich sequence was found to be required for the cell cycle regulation. This sequence could be replaced by a different sequence that maintained the AT richness. A flow cytometry analysis that combined specific immunofluorescent staining of β-galactosidase with a DNA-specific stain was developed and employed to study the nrd promoter activity in cells at specific cell cycle positions. The results of the flow cytometry analysis confirmed the results obtained from studies with synchronized cells.