The pre-steady state kinetics of the cytochrome c oxidase reaction with oxygen were studied by a variation in the reaction time between approximately 6 and 25 ms at oxygen concentrations less than 6 mumol/l. For baker's yeast, a pseudo-first-order velocity constant of approximately 150 s-1 at 1.3 mumol/l O2 was obtained corresponding to a second-order reaction between O2 and a3 at a forward velocity constant (k+1) of approximately 3 X 10(7) liter equiv.-1s-1. Thus, the membrane-bound oxidase in the intact cell exhibits one of the most rapid enzyme-substrate reactions to be reported. The value is identical with that of Greenwood and Gibson on an isolated, solubilized cytochrome c oxidase. Similar values of k+1 are calculated from the turnover numbers [k+2 (a+2)] divided by the Km values (formula; see text) measured for these yeast preparations, which points to an almost negligible reverse reaction (k-1) compared to k+2(a+2). Similar calculations for the membrane-bound cytochrome c oxidase of heart muscle give a value of k+1 approximately equal to 10(7) liter equiv.-1s-1. The concordance of the different values of k+1 supports the view that the yeast cell wall does not impart a significant diffusion barrier to the transport of molecular oxygen. In contrast, Acetobacter suboxydans exhibits a much larger value for Km, and has a terminal oxidase of different kinetic parameters.