The 3', 5' cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) binding pocket of the cAMP receptor protein (CRP) of Escherichia coli was mutagenized to substitute leucine, glutamine, or aspartate for glutamate 72; and lysine, histidine, leucine, isoleucine, or glutamine for arginine 82. Substitutions were made in wild-type CRP and in a CRP*, or cAMP-independent, form of the protein to assess the effects of the amino acid substitutions on CRP structure. Cells containing the binding pocket residue-substituted forms of CRP were characterized through beta-galactosidase activity and by measurement of cAMP binding activity. This study confirms a role for both glutamate 72 and arginine 82 in cAMP binding and activation of CRP. Glutamine or leucine substitution of glutamate 72 produced forms of CRP having low affinity for the cAMP and unresponsive to the nucleotide. Aspartate substituted for glutamate 72 produced a low affinity cAMP-responsive form of CRP. CRP has a stringent requirement for the positioning of the position 72 glutamate carboxyl group within the cyclic nucleotide binding pocket. Results of this study also indicate that there are differences in the binding requirements of cAMP and cGMP, a competitive inhibitor of cAMP binding to CRP.