The rotational mobility of lac repressor from Escherichia coli was investigated by nanosecond fluorescence depolarization spectroscopy. A single rotational correlation time (φ) of the repressor was observed by monitoring the emission anisotropic decay of the intrinsic tryptophan fluorescence. The small value of φ (9·5 ns) suggests that one or both of the two tryptophan residues in the repressor are located in a flexible segment of the protein molecule. This segmental flexibility is enhanced by binding of inducer (isopropyl-β-d-thiogalactoside) to the repressor while it is restrained by binding of anti-inducer (glucose) or small DNA fragments, as indicated by the changes in φ. Further time-dependent emission anisotropy studies with an extrinsic fluorescent probe, N-(iodoacetylaminoethyl)-5-naphthylamine-1-sulfonate, covalently attached to the repressor yielded two rotational correlation times. The shorter φS (6·7 ns) also corresponds to a segmental flexibility whereas the longer φL (118 ns) represents the rotational motion of the entire repressor molecule. Both the values of φS and φL vary by addition of inducer or anti-inducer in a manner similar to that observed for the intrinsic tryptophan fluorescence but they are insensitive to addition of DNA fragments. The changes in local mobility of the lac repressor molecule observed in these studies may provide some insight into how inducer (or anti-inducer) destabilizes (or stabilizes) the repressor-operator complex.