The nucleotide sequence of the iron superoxide dismutase gene from Escherichia coli K12 has been determined. Analysis of the DNA sequence and mapping of the mRNA start reveal a unique promoter and a putative rho-independent terminator, and suggest that the Fe dismutase gene constitutes a monocistronic operon. The gene encodes a polypeptide product consisting of 192 amino acid residues with a calculated Mr of 21,111. The published N-terminal amino acid sequence of E. coli B Fe dismutase (Steinman, H. M., and Hill, R. L. (1973) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 70, 3725-3729), along with the sequences of seven other peptides reported here, was located in the primary structure deduced from the K12 E. coli gene sequence. A new molecular model for iron dismutase from E. coli, based on the DNA sequence and x-ray data for the E. coli B enzyme at 3.1 A resolution, allows detailed comparison of the structure of the iron enzyme with manganese superoxide dismutase from Thermus thermophilus HB8. The structural similarities are more extensive than indicated by earlier studies and are particularly striking in the vicinity of the metal-ligand cluster, which is surrounded by conserved aromatic residues. The combined structural and sequence information now available for a series of Mn and Fe superoxide dismutases identifies variable regions in these otherwise very similar molecules; the principal variable site occurs in a surface region between the two long helices which dominate the N-terminal domain.