DNA binding proteins that induce structural changes in DNA are common in both prokaryotes and eukaryotes. Integration host factor (IHF) is a multi-functional DNA binding and bending protein of Escherichia coli that can mediate protein-protein and protein-DNA interactions by bending DNA. Previously we have shown that the presence of a dA+dT element 5'-proximal to an IHF consensus sequence can affect the binding of IHF to a particular site. In this study the contribution of various sequence elements to the formation of IHF-DNA complexes was examined. We show that IHF bends DNA more when it binds to a site containing a dA+dT element upstream of its core consensus element than to a site lacking a dA+dT element. We demonstrate that IHF can be specifically crosslinked to DNA with binding sites either containing or lacking this dA+dT element. These results indicate the importance of flanking DNA and a dA+dT element in the binding and bending of a site by IHF.