The phage Mu transposase (MuA) binds to the ends of the Mu genome during the assembly of higher order nucleoprotein complexes. We investigate the structure and function of the MuA end-binding domain (Ibetagamma). The three-dimensional solution structure of the Ibeta subdomain (residues 77-174) has been determined using multidimensional NMR spectroscopy. It comprises five alpha-helices, including a helix-turn-helix (HTH) DNA-binding motif formed by helices 3 and 4, and can be subdivided into two interacting structural elements. The structure has an elongated disc-like appearance from which protrudes the recognition helix of the HTH motif. The topology of helices 2-4 is very similar to that of helices 1-3 of the previously determined solution structure of the MuA Igamma subdomain and to that of the homeodomain family of HTH DNA-binding proteins. We show that each of the two subdomains binds to one half of the 22 bp recognition sequence, Ibeta to the more conserved Mu end distal half (beta subsite) and Igamma to the Mu end proximal half (gamma subsite) of the consensus Mu end-binding site. The complete Ibetagamma domain binds the recognition sequence with a 100- to 1000-fold higher affinity than the two subdomains independently, indicating a cooperative effect. Our results show that the Mu end DNA-binding domain of MuA has a modular organization, with each module acting on a specific part of the 22 bp binding site. Based on the present binding data and the structures of the Ibeta and Igamma subdomains, a model for the interaction of the complete Ibetagamma domain with DNA is proposed.