To understand the specificity and efficiency of protein-protein interactions promoting electron transfer, we evaluated the role of electrostatic forces in precollision orientation by the development of two new methods, computer graphics alignment of protein electrostatic fields and a systematic orientational search of intermolecular electrostatic energies for two proteins at present separation distances. We applied these methods to the plastocyanin/cytochrome c interaction, which is faster than random collision, but too slow for study by molecular dynamics techniques. Significant electrostatic potentials were concentrated on one-fourth (969 A2) of the plastocyanin surface, with the greatest negative potential centered on the Tyr-83 hydroxyl within the acidic patch, and on one-eighth (632 A2) of the cytochrome c surface, with the greatest positive potential centered near the exposed heme edge. Coherent electrostatic fields occurred only over these regions, suggesting that local, rather than global, charge complementarity controls productive recognition. The three energetically favored families of pre-collision orientations all directed the positive region surrounding the heme edge of cytochrome c toward the acidic patch of plastocyanin but differed in heme plane orientation. Analysis of electrostatic fields, electrostatic energies of precollision orientations with 12 and 6 A separation distances, and surface topographies suggested that the favored orientations should converge to productive complexes promoting a single electron-transfer pathway from the cytochrome c heme edge to Tyr-83 of plastocyanin. Direct interactions of the exposed Cu ligand in plastocyanin with the cytochrome c heme edge are not unfavorable sterically or electrostatically but should occur no faster than randomly, indicating that this is not the primary pathway for electron transfer.