Transcriptional control of the himA and the himD/hip genes coding for the two subunits of the integration host factor (IHF) was investigated. The promoters for the two genes were identified by the use of primer extension and S1 analysis. Expression from both promoters was found to increase as the cells enter stationary phase. Mutation in rpoS, known to be induced upon entry to stationary phase, dramatically reduced the growth-phase response of the himA P4 promoter but had only a small effect on the induction of the himD/hip promoter. The increased activity of both promoters required the presence of the relA and spoT genes, suggesting that ppGpp plays a major role in the response to stationary phase. An artificial increase in ppGpp in exponentially growing cells induced a rapid increase in himA P4 and himD/hip mRNA levels. Experiments with a mutant defective in rpoS showed that the response of the himA P4 promoter to high ppGpp levels was greatly reduced while that of himD/hip was only slightly affected. Therefore, it seems that different mechanisms involving RpoS and ppGpp regulate the growth-phase response of the two promoters. We propose that the effect of ppGpp on himA P4 is mediated via RpoS whereas the himD/hip promoter is affected by ppGpp independently of RpoS. Expression of the himD/hip and himA genes was found to be subject to negative autoregulation. IHF-binding sites, implicated in autoregulation, were found to overlap both the himD/hip and himA P4 promoters. An additional IHF-binding site was found upstream of the himD/hip promoter. All three sites show low binding affinity to IHF suggesting that autoregulation can take place only after sufficiently high levels of IHF accumulate in the cell.