The wild-type lac repressor of Escherichia coli is a tetrameric protein which contains two tryptophanyl residues per subunit at positions 190 and 209. Solute perturbation studies of the tryptophan fluorescence of the repressor were performed using a polar but uncharged quencher, acrylamide, to prevent possible bias caused by ionic quenchers. The results indicate that the two tryptophan residues have different accessibilities to the quencher. In addition, contrary to a previous report, the accessibility of these tryptophan residues is not altered by isopropyl-β-d-thiogalactoside (IPTG) binding to the repressor. Similar studies with mutant lac repressor containing only a single tryptophan either at positions 190 or 209 suggest that tryptophan 209 is located in a region which is perturbed by inducer binding. That the two tryptophanyl residues have heterogeneous environments was further confirmed by nanosecond fluorescence spectroscopy which showed the wild-type lac repressor exhibiting two excited-state lifetimes, τ1 = 5.3 ns and τ2 = 10 ns. In the presence of 10-3 m IPTG, only a single lifetime of 6 ns was observed for the wild-type repressor suggesting that the inducer perturbs the tryptophan residue with the longer lifetime but not the one with the shorter lifetime. This is in accord with the observation that the mutant repressor containing only tryptophan 190 (the Tyr-209 repressor) has a single lifetime of 4.5 ns which is not altered by IPTG binding. The surprising finding that the mutant repressor which contains only tryptophan 209 (the Tyr-190 repressor) shows two excited-state lifetimes has been interpreted to indicate that the repressor either does not exhibit fourfold symmetry in its subunit arrangement or is present in two different conformational states.