The interaction between the approximately 30 kDa N-terminal domain of enzyme I (EIN) and the approximately 9.5 kDa histidine-containing phosphocarrier protein HPr of the Escherichia coli phosphoenolpyruvate:sugar phosphotransferase system has been investigated by heteronuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. The complex is in fast exchange, permitting us to follow the chemical shift changes of the backbone NH and 15N resonances of EIN upon complex formation by recording a series of 1H-15N correlation spectra of uniformly 15N-labeled EIN in the presence of increasing amounts of HPr at natural isotopic abundance. The equilibrium association constant derived from analysis of the titration data is approximately 1.5 x 10(5) M(-1), and the lower limit for the dissociation rate constant is 1100 s(-1). By mapping the backbone chemical shift perturbations on the three-dimensional solution structure of EIN [Garrett, D. S., Seok, Y.-J., Liao, D.-I., Peterkofsky, A., Gronenborn, A. M., & Clore, G. M. (1997) Biochemistry 36, 2517-2530], we have identified the binding surface of EIN in contact with HPr. This surface is primarily located in the alpha domain and involves helices H1, H2, and H4, as well as the hinge region connecting helices H2 and H2'. The data also indicate that the active site His 15 of HPr must approach the active site His 189 of EIN along the shallow depression at the interface of the alpha and alpha/beta domains. Interestingly, both the backbone and side chain resonances (assigned from a long-range 1H-15N correlation spectrum) of His 189, which is located at the N-terminus of helix H6 in he alpha/beta domain, are only minimally perturbed upon complexation, indicating that His 189 (in the absence of phosphorylation) does not undergo any significant conformational change or change in pK(a) value upon HPr binding. On the basis of results of this study, as well as a previous study which delineated the interaction surface for EI on HPr [van Nuland, N. A. J., Boelens, R., Scheek, R. M., & Robillard, G. T. (1995) J. Mol. Biol. 246, 180-193], a model for the EIN/HPr complex is proposed in which helix 1 (residues 16-27) and the helical loop (residues 49-53) of HPr slip between the two pairs of helices constituting the alpha domain of EIN. In addition, we suggest a functional role for the kink between helices H2 and H2' of EIN, providing a flexible joint for this interaction to take place.