Cytochrome caa3, a cytochrome c oxidase from Thermus thermophilus, is a two-subunit enzyme containing the four canonical metal centers of cytochrome c oxidases (cytochromes a and a3; copper centers CuA and CuB) and an additional cytochrome c. The smaller subunit contains heme C and was termed the C-protein. We have cloned the genes encoding the subunits of the oxidase and determined the nucleotide sequence of the C-protein gene. The gene and deduced primary amino acid sequences establish that both the gene and the protein are fusions with a typical subunit II sequence and a characteristic cytochrome c sequence; we now call this subunit IIc. The protein thus appears to represent a covalent joining of substrate (cytochrome c) to its enzyme (cytochrome c oxidase). In common with other subunits II, subunit IIc contains two hydrophobic segments of amino acids near the amino terminus that probably form transmembrane helices. Variability analysis of the Thermus and other subunit II sequences suggests that the two putative transmembrane helices in subunit II may be located on the surface of the hydrophobic portion of the intact cytochrome oxidase protein complex. Also in common with other subunits II is a relatively hydrophilic intermembrane domain containing a set of conserved amino acids (2 cysteines and 2 histidines) which have previously been proposed by others to serve as ligands to the CuA center. We compared the subunit IIc sequence with that of related proteins. N2O reductase of Pseudomonas stutzeri, a multi-copper protein that appears to contain a CuA site (Scott, R.A., Zumft, W.G., Coyle, C.L., and Dooley, D.M. (1989) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 86, 4082-4086), contains a 59-residue sequence element that is homologous to the "CuA sequence motif" found in cytochrome oxidase subunits II, including all four putative copper ligands. By contrast, subunit II of the Escherichia coli quinol oxidase, cytochrome bo, also contains a region homologous to the CuA motif, but it lacks the proposed metal binding histidine and cysteine residues; this is consistent with the apparent absence of CuA from cytochrome bo.