The DNA-binding AbrB protein of Bacillus subtilis is an ambiactive transcriptional regulator of genes expressed during the transition state between vegetative growth and the onset of stationary phase and sporulation. Studies on the transcriptional control of AbrB synthesis using abrB-lacZ fusions indicated that the abrB gene was autoregulated. This was consistent with the observation that purified AbrB protein bound specifically to the promoter region of its own gene in DNase I protection experiments. The structural gene mutation abrB4 abolished the autoregulation and purified AbrB4 protein did not have the promoter binding properties associated with the wild-type protein. Both AbrB and AbrB4 proteins were shown to be hexamers of 10,500 Dalton subunits and subunit exchange occurred between the proteins in vitro. However, the presence of only one or two mutant subunits dramaticaly altered the DNA-binding ability of the multimeric protein. The results support a model in which autoregulation of the abrB gene is an important factor in preventing sporulation-associated genes from being expressed during vegetative growth.