Integration host factor (IHF) is a DNA-binding and -bending protein that has been found in a number of gram-negative bacteria. Here we describe the cloning, sequencing, and functional analysis of the genes coding for the two subunits of IHF from Pseudomonas putida. Both the ihfA and ihfB genes of P. putida code for 100-amino-acid-residue polypeptides that are 1 and 6 residues longer than the Escherichia coli IHF subunits, respectively. The P. putida ihfA and ihfB genes can effectively complement E. coli ihf mutants, suggesting that the P. putida IHF subunits can form functional heterodimers with the IHF subunits of E. coli. Analysis of the amino acid differences between the E. coli and P. putida protein sequences suggests that in the evolution of IHF, amino acid changes were mainly restricted to the N-terminal domains and to the extreme C termini. These changes do not interfere with dimer formation or with DNA recognition. We constructed a P. putida mutant strain carrying an ihfA gene knockout and demonstrated that IHF is essential for the expression of the P(U) promoter of the xyl operon of the upper pathway of toluene degradation. It was further shown that the ihfA P. putida mutant strain carrying the TOL plasmid was defective in the degradation of the aromatic model compound benzyl alcohol, proving the unique rule of IHF in xyl operon promoter regulation.