Bacterial plasmids deploy a diverse range of regulatory mechanisms to control expression of the functions they need to survive in the host population. Understanding of the mechanisms by which autoregulatory circuits control plasmid survival functions, in particular plasmid replication, has been advanced by recent studies. At a molecular level, structural understanding of how certain antisense RNAs control replication and stability functions is almost complete. Control circuits linking plasmid transfer functions to the status of the bacterial population have been dissected, uncovering a complex and hierarchical organisation. Coordinate or global regulation of plasmid replication, transfer and stable maintenance functions is becoming apparent across a range of plasmid families.