The non-specific DNA binding of CRP and its N-terminal core, alpha CRP, to a 298 base pair DNA fragment, in the presence and absence of cAMP, has been studied using the nitrocellulose filter binding technique and analysed quantitatively using the theory of Clore et al. [J. Mol. Biol. (1982) 155, 447-466]. It is shown that both CRP and alpha CRP bind cooperatively to DNA. At an ionic strength of 100 mM and pH 7.5, the intrinsic equilibrium association constant for the binding of alpha CRP to DNA is approximately 10-times smaller than that for CRP, but the cooperativity parameter is approximately 17-times larger for alpha CRP than CRP. cAMP exerts its effect solely on the intrinsic equilibrium constant and does not alter the cooperativity. In the case of alpha CRP, cAMP reduces the intrinsic equilibrium association constant by a factor of 3, in contrast to the case of CRP where cAMP increases it by a factor of 3. The possible location of the DNA binding site present in the N-terminal core of CRP is discussed in the light of crystallographic data on the cAMP . CRP complex [McKay et al. (1982) J. Biol. Chem. 257, 9518-9524].