Shigella flexneri is the causative agent of bacillary dysentery and is a facultative intracellular pathogen. Its virulence regulon is subject to tight control by several mechanisms involving the products of over 20 genes and an array of environmental signals. The regulon is carried on a plasmid that is prone to instability and to integration into the chromosome, with associated silencing of the virulence genes. Closely related regulons are found in other species of Shigella and in enteroinvasive Escherichia coli. A wealth of detailed information is now available on the Shigella virulence gene control circuits, and it is becoming clear that these share many features with regulatory systems found in other bacterial pathogens. All of this makes the S. flexneri virulence gene control system a very attractive topic for those interested in the nature of gene regulatory networks in bacteria.