Thermus thermophilus HB8 cells grown under reduced dioxygen tensions contain a substantially increased amount of heme A, much of which appears to be due to the presence of the terminal oxidase, cytochrome ba3. We describe a purification procedure for this enzyme that yields approximately 100 mg of pure protein from 2 kg of wet mass of cells grown in < or = 50 microM O2. Examination of the protein by SDS-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis followed by staining with Coomassie Blue reveals one strongly staining band at approximately 35 kDa and one very weakly staining band at approximately 18 kDa as reported earlier (Zimmermann, B.H., Nitsche, C.I., Fee, J. A., Rusnak, F., and Münck, E. (1988) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 85, 5779-5783). By contrast, treatment of the gels with AgNO3 reveals that the larger polypeptide stains quite weakly while the smaller polypeptide stains very strongly. These results suggested the presence of two polypeptides in this protein. Using partial amino acid sequences from both proteins to obtain DNA sequence information, we isolated and sequenced a portion of the Thermus chromosome containing the genes encoding the larger protein, subunit I (cbaA), and the smaller protein, subunit II (cbaB). The two polypeptides were isolated using reversed phase liquid chromatography, and their mole percent amino acid compositions are consistent with the proposed translation of their respective genes. The two genes appear to be part of a larger operon, but we have not extended the sequencing to identify initiation and termination sequences. The deduced amino acid sequence of subunit I includes the six canonical histidine residues involved in binding the low spin heme B and the binuclear center Cu(B)/heme A. These and other conserved amino acids are placed along the polypeptide among alternating hydrophobic and hydrophilic segments in a pattern that shows clear homology to other members of the heme- and copper-requiring terminal oxidases. The deduced amino acid sequence of the subunit II contains the CuA binding motif, including two cysteines, two histidines, and a methionine, but, in contrast to most other subunits II, it has only one region of hydrophobic sequence near its N terminus. Alignment of these two polypeptides with other cytochrome c and quinol oxidases, combined with secondary structure analysis and previous spectral studies, clearly establish cytochrome ba3 as a bona fide member of the superfamily of heme- and copper-requiring oxidases. The alignments further indicate that cytochrome ba3 is phylogenetically distant from other cytochrome c and quinol oxidases, and they substantially decrease the number of conserved amino acid residues.