To contribute to the understanding of glutamate synthase and of beta subunit-like proteins, which have been detected by sequence analyses, we identified the NADPH-binding site out of the two potential ADP-binding regions found in the beta subunit. The substitution of an alanyl residue for G298 of the beta subunit of Azospirillum brasilense glutamate synthase (the second glycine in the GXGXXA fingerprint of the postulated NADPH-binding site) yielded a protein species in which the flavin environment and properties are unaltered. On the contrary, the binding of the pyridine nucleotide substrate is significantly perturbed demonstrating that the C-terminal potential ADP-binding fold of the beta subunit is indeed the NADPH-binding site of the enzyme. The major effect of the G298A substitution in the GltS beta subunit consists of an approximately 10-fold decrease of the affinity of the enzyme for pyridine nucleotides with little or no effect on the rate of the enzyme reduction by NADPH. By combining kinetic measurements and absorbance-monitored equilibrium titrations of the G298A-beta subunit mutant, we conclude that also the positioning of its nicotinamide portion into the active site is altered thus preventing the formation of a stable charge-transfer complex between reduced FAD and NADP(+). During the course of this work, the Azospirillum DNA regions flanking the gltD and gltB genes, the genes encoding the GltS beta and alpha subunits, respectively, were sequenced and analyzed. Although the Azospirillum GltS is similar to the enzyme of other bacteria, it appears that the corresponding genes differ with respect to their arrangement in the chromosome and to the composition of the glt operon: no genes corresponding to E. coli and Klebsiella aerogenes gltF or to Bacillus subtilis gltC, encoding regulatory proteins, are found in the DNA regions adjacent to that containing gltD and gltB genes in Azospirillum. Further studies are needed to determine if these findings also imply differences in the regulation of the glt genes expression in Azospirillum (a nitrogen-fixing bacterium) with respect to enteric bacteria.