The structure of the DNA binding domain, determined at 1.8 Angstrom resolution, contains a three-helix bundle that is capped by a four-stranded antiparallel beta sheet. This structure is a variant of the helix-turn-helix motif, typified by catabolite activator protein. In the heat shock transcription factor, the first helix of the motif (alpha 2) has an alpha -helical bulge and a proline-induced kink. The angle between the two helices of the motif (alpha 2 and alpha 3) is about 20 degrees smaller than the average for canonical helix-turn-helix proteins. Nevertheless, the relative positions of the first and third helices of the bundle (alpha 1 and alpha 3) are conserved. It is proposed here that the first helix of the three-helix bundle be considered a component of the helix-turn-helix motif.