The cyclic AMP receptor protein (CRP) of Escherichia coli regulates the activity of more than 150 genes. Allosteric changes in CRP structure accompanied by cAMP binding, initiate transcription through protein binding to specific DNA sequences. Initially, researchers proposed a two-site cAMP-binding model for CRP-dependent transcription activation since biophysical methods showed two transitions during titration experiments. Three conformational states were considered; apo-CRP, CRP:(cAMP)(1) and CRP:(cAMP)(2), and CRP:(cAMP)(1) was proposed as the active form in this initial model. X-ray data indicated an anti conformation and in contrast NMR experiments suggested a syn conformation for bound cAMPs. For years this paradigm about ligand conformation has been ambiguous. When CRP was crystallized with four bound cAMP in the last decade, two cAMPs were assigned to syn and the other two to anti conformations. Again three conformational states were suggested; apo-CRP, CRP:(cAMP)(2), and CRP:(cAMP)(4). This new structure changed the view of CRP allosteric activation from a two-site model to a four-site model in the literature and the new model has been supported by biochemical and genetic data so far. According to the accepted model, binding of the first two cAMP molecules displays positive cooperativity, however, binding of the last two cAMP molecules shows negative cooperativity. This resolved the conflict between dynamic and static experimental observations. However, this new model cannot explain the initiation mechanism as previously proposed because functionally active CRP has only one cAMP equivalent. Gene regulation and transcription factors are involved in regulating both prokaryotic and eukaryotic metabolism. Although gene regulation and expression are much more complex in eukaryotes, CRP-mediated transcription initiation is a model of general interest to life sciences and medicine. Therefore, the aim of this review is to Summarize recent works and developments on the cAMP-dependent CRP activation mechanism in E. coli. Copyright (C) 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.