In Vibrio fischeri, the synthesis of N-3-oxohexanoyl-L-homoserine lactone, the autoinducer for population density-responsive induction of the luminescence operon (the lux operon, luxICDABEG), is dependent on the autoinducer synthase gene luxI. Gene replacement mutants of V. fischeri defective in luxI, which had been expected to produce no autoinducer, nonetheless exhibited lux operon transcriptional activation. Mutants released into the medium a compound that, like N-3-oxohexanoyl-L-homoserine lactone, activated expression of the lux system in a dose-dependent manner and was both extractable with ethyl acetate and labile to base. The luxI-independent compound, also like N-3-oxohexanoyl-L-homoserine lactone, was produced by V. fischeri cells in a regulated, population density-responsive manner and required the transcriptional activator LuxR for activity in the lux system. The luxI-independent compound was identified as N-octanoyl-L-homoserine lactone by coelution with the synthetic compound in reversed-phase high-pressure liquid chromatography, by derivatization treatment with 2,4-dinitrophenylhydrazine, by mass spectrometry, and by nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. A locus, ain, necessary and sufficient for Escherichia coli to synthesize N-octanoyl-L-homoserine lactone was cloned from the V. fischeri genome and found to be distinct from luxI by restriction mapping and Southern hybridization. N-Octanoyl-L-homoserine lactone and ain constitute a second, novel autoinduction system for population density-responsive signalling and regulation of lux gene expression, and possibly other genes, in V. fischeri. A third V. fischeri autoinducer, N-hexanoyl-L-homoserine lactone, dependent on luxI for its synthesis, was also identified. The presence of multiple chemically and genetically distinct but cross-acting autoinduction systems in V. fischeri indicates unexpected complexity for autoinduction as a regulatory mechanism in this bacterium.