Expression from the Escherichia coli nrf operon promoter is activated by the anaerobically triggered transcription factor, FNR, and by the nitrate/nitrite ion-controlled response regulators, NarL or NarP, but is repressed by the IHF and Fis proteins. Here, we present in vitro studies on the nrf promoter, using permanganate footprinting to measure open complex formation, and DNase I footprinting to monitor binding of the different regulators and the interactions between them. Our results show that open complex formation is completely dependent on FNR and is enhanced by NarL, but is repressed by IHF or Fis. NarL counteracts repression by IHF but is unable to alter repression by Fis. These results suggest mechanisms by which nrf promoter activity is modulated by the different factors. Expression from the nrf promoter is known to be repressed in rich media, especially in the presence of glucose, but the molecular basis of this is not understood. Here, we show that this catabolite repression is relieved by mutations that weaken the DNA site for Fis, improve the DNA site for FNR or improve the promoter -10 or -35 elements. Hence, Fis protein is a major factor responsible for catabolite repression at the nrf promoter, and Fis can override activation by FNR and NarL or NarP.