We report the first example of a gene, hmp, encoding a soluble flavohemoglobin in Escherichia coli K-12, which is up-regulated by paraquat in a SoxRS-independent manner. Unlike what is found for other paraquat-inducible genes, high concentrations of paraquat (200 microM) were required to increase the level of hmp expression, and maximal induction was observed only after 20 min of exposure to paraquat. Neither a mutation in soxS nor one in soxR prevented the paraquat-dependent increase in phi(hmp-lacZ) expression, but either mutant allele delayed full expression of phi(hmp-lacZ) activity after paraquat addition. Induction of hmp by paraquat was demonstrated in aerobically grown cultures during exponential growth and the stationary phase, thus revealing two Sox-independent regulatory mechanisms. Induction of hmp by paraquat in the stationary phase was dependent on the global regulator of stationary-phase gene expression, RpoS (sigma S). However, a mutation in rpoS did not prevent an increase in hmp expression by paraquat in exponentially growing cells. Induction of sigma S in the exponential phase by heat shock also induced phi(hmp-lacZ) expression in the presence of paraquat, supporting the role of sigma S in one of the regulatory mechanisms. Mutations in oxyR or rob, known regulators of several stress promoters in E. coli, had no effect on the induction of hmp by paraquat. Other known superoxide-generating agents (plumbagin, menadione, and phenazine methosulfate) were not effective in inducing hmp expression.