The Escherichia coli molybdate transporter, encoded by the modABCD operon, is negatively regulated by the modE gene product in response to the intracellular molybdate concentration. Utilizing an in vivo titration assay, we localized the ModE-binding site to the start of modA transcription. This localization was further characterized using in vitro gel-shift assays and DNase I footprinting. ModE bound the wild-type modA promoter with an apparent dissociation constant (Kd) of 45 nM, and addition of molybdate, in physiologically relevant amounts, significantly increased DNA binding. Consistent with these data, modA promoter fragments containing mutations that reduced ModE repression in vivo displayed proportionately higher apparent Kd values in vitro. DNase I footprinting of the modA promoter revealed a single protected region that overlapped the start site of transcription and extended from position −18 to +10, relative to the transcript start site. Gel-shifting assays, employing the promoter regions from the tor, nrf, moa and moe operons, revealed that ModE bound only the moa promoter region, with an apparent Kd of 24 nM. Footprint analysis of the moaA promoter revealed a single protected region located immediately upstream of the putative −35 consensus sequence and extending from position −202 to −174, relative to the start of translation. In vivo expression of a moaA–lacZ operon fusion was stimulated twofold by ModE. However, relative to modA, binding of ModE to the moaA promoter appeared to be largely molybdate independent both in vitro and in vivo. These findings demonstrate that ModE acts both as a repressor and activator of the mod and moa operons, respectively, depending on the properties of the binding site.