The fim switch of Escherichia coli is responsible for phase-variable expression of type 1 fimbriae. Switching in the ON-to-OFF and OFF-to-ON directions is promoted by the FimB recombinase, while the FimE recombinase directs switching predominantly in the ON-to-OFF direction. The effects of local promoter activity and the H-NS nucleoid-associated protein on inversion of the switch were assessed. In contrast to FimB-mediated inversion, inversion of the switch by the FimE recombinase was unaffected by the H-NS status of the cell. Transcription towards the switch from within a translationally inactivated fimE gene was found to bias the switch strongly in the OFF direction, creating a FimE+-like phenotype in the absence of the FimE protein. This biasing was H-NS dependent and was also contingent on transcription from within the switch. These data show that local transcription and a nucleoid-associated protein both contribute to the modulation of a site-specific recombination event on the bacterial chromosome.