Equilibrium and kinetic rate constants were determined for the binding of the initiator protein DnaA of Escherichia coli to its binding site, the non-palindromic 9-bp DnaA box, using gel retardation techniques. The dissociation constant for specific binding was between 1 and 50 nM for individual DnaA boxes on 21-bp double-stranded oligonucleotides. Only DnaA boxes of the sequence TT(A/T)TNCACA resulted in specific fragment retention. Both the 9-bp consensus sequence and flanking sequences determined the binding efficiency. One DnaA monomer was found to bind to a DnaA box and to induce a bend of about 40 degrees.