Escherichia coli produces two independently regulated hydroperoxidases (catalases) that protect the cell from toxic concentrations of hydrogen peroxide. Hydroperoxidase I (HPI) is induced by hydrogen peroxide in an OxyR-dependent manner, while hydroperoxidase II (HPII) synthesis is regulated by an alternative sigma factor called RpoS (KatF). The activities of both hydroperoxidases increase as exponentially growing cells enter stationary phase. In this study, we examined the growth phase-dependent expression of HPI. Treatment of early-exponential-phase cells with spent culture supernatant resulted in induction of HPI synthesis. Extracellular levels of hydrogen peroxide, accumulating in the culture supernatant during late exponential phase, were found to be lower than the concentrations normally required to induce OxyR-dependent synthesis of HPI. This finding suggested that factors other than hydrogen peroxide may play a role in HPI expression. Weak acids such as acetate, which accumulate in culture supernatant and have been implicated in the regulation of HPII, caused a sixfold increase in HPI expression. Increases in HPI synthesis, mediated by weak acids and spent culture fluid supernatant, could be prevented by chloramphenicol, indicating that de novo protein synthesis is required for induction. Expression studies using a plasmid-borne lacZ transcriptional fusion to katG, the structural gene for HPI, indicated that growth phase-dependent regulation of HPI occurs primarily at the level of transcription and is dependent on RpoS. These results suggest that there may be a common regulatory mechanism of HPI and HPII expression in addition to previously described independent control mechanisms.