A full understanding of enzyme-substrate interactions requires a detailed knowledge of their structural basis at atomic resolution. Crystallographic and biochemical data have been analyzed with coupled computational and computer graphic approaches to characterize the molecular basis for recognition of the superoxide anion substrate by Cu,Zn superoxide dismutase (SOD). Detailed analysis of the bovine SOD structure aligned with SOD sequences from 15 species provides new results concerning the significance and molecular basis for sequence conservation. Specific roles have been assigned for all 23 invariant residues and additional residues exhibiting functional equivalence. Sequence invariance is dominated by 15 residues that form the active site stereochemistry, supporting a primary biological function of superoxide dismutation. Using data from crystallographic structures and site-directed mutants, we are testing the role of individual residues in the active site channel, including (in human SOD) Glu 132, Glu 133, Lys 136, Thr 137, and Arg 143. Electrostatic calculations incorporating molecular flexibility suggest that the region of positive electrostatic potential in and over the active site channel above the Cu ion sweeps through space during molecular motion to enhance the facilitated diffusion responsible for the enzyme's rapid catalytic rate.