The Tat protein export system serves to export folded proteins harboring an N-terminal twin arginine signal peptide across the cytoplasmic membrane. In this study, we have used gene expression profiling of Escherichia coli supported by phenotypic analysis to investigate how cells respond to a defect in the Tat pathway. Previous work has demonstrated that strains mutated in genes encoding essential Tat pathway components are defective in the integrity of their cell envelope because of the mislocalization of two amidases involved in cell wall metabolism (Ize, B., Stanley, N.R., Buchanan, G., and Palmer, T. (2003) Mol. Microbiol. 48, 1183-1193). To distinguish between genes that are differentially expressed specifically because of the cell envelope defect and those that result from other effects of the tatC deletion, we also analyzed two different transposon mutants of the DeltatatC strain that have their outer membrane integrity restored. Approximately 50% of the genes that were differentially expressed in the tatC mutant are linked to the envelope defect, with the products of many of these genes involved in self-defense or protection mechanisms, including the production of exopolysaccharide. Among the changes that were not explicitly linked to envelope integrity, we characterized a role for the Tat system in iron acquisition and copper homeostasis. Finally, we have demonstrated that overproduction of the Tat substrate SufI saturates the Tat translocon and produces effects on global gene expression that are similar to those resulting from the DeltatatC mutation.