Pseudomonas aeruginosa is an opportunistic human pathogen that causes a variety of infections in immunocompromised hosts and individuals with cystic fibrosis. Expression of elastase, one of the virulence factors produced by this organism, requires the transcriptional activator LasR. Experiments with gene fusions show that gene lasl is essential for high expression of elastase. The lasl gene is involved in the synthesis of a diffusible molecule termed Pseudomonas autoinducer (PAI). PAI provides P. aeruginosa with a means of cell-to-cell communication that is required for the expression of virulence genes and may provide a target for therapeutic approaches.