The structural gene encoding the Rieske iron-sulfur protein from Thermus thermophilus HB8 has been cloned and sequenced. The gene encodes a protein of 209 amino acids that begins with a hydrophilic N-terminus followed by a stretch of 21 hydrophobic amino acids that could serve as a transmembrane helix. The remainder of the protein has a hydrophobicity pattern typical of a water-soluble protein. A phylogenetic analysis of 26 Rieske proteins that are part of bc1 or b6f complexes shows that they fall into three major groups: eubacterial and mitochondrial, cyanobacterial and plastid, and five highly divergent outliers, including that of Thermus. Although the overall homology with other Rieske proteins is very low, the C-terminal half of the Thermus protein contains the signature sequence CTHLGC-(13X)-CPCH that most likely provides the ligands of the [2Fe-2S] cluster. It is proposed that this region of the protein represents a small domain that folds independently and that the encoding DNA sequence may have been transferred during evolution to several unrelated genes to provide the cluster attachment site to proteins of different origin. The role of individual residues in this domain of the Thermus protein is discussed vis-a-vis the three-dimensional structure of the bovine protein (Iwata et al., 1996 Structure 4, 567-579).