Expression of the cobalamin (Cbl) biosynthetic cob operon in Salmonella typhimurium is repressed by the end-product. This regulation is conferred mainly at the translational level and involves a cobalamin-induced folding of an RNA hairpin that sequesters the ribosomal binding site (RBS) of the cob mRNA and prevents translation initiation. A combined structural and mutational analysis shows that a cis-acting translational enhancer (TE) element, located 83 nucleotides upstream of the Shine–Dalgarno sequence in the 5′-untranslated region (5′-UTR) of the cob mRNA, is required to unfold the inhibitory RBS hairpin in the absence of cobalamin. The TE element, which consists of 5 nucleotides, is proposed to confer its enhancer function in the absence of cobalamin by interacting with nucleotides in the stem of the RBS hairpin. This interaction destabilizes the RNA hairpin and allows ribosome binding. In the presence of cobalamin, the enhancer function is inhibited. As a result, the RBS hairpin forms and prevents translation initiation. Several additional RNA hairpins in the 5′-UTR were also identified and are suggested to be important for repression. The above data suggest that normal cobalamin repression of the cob operon requires that the 5′-UTR has a defined secondary and tertiary structure.