The gene encoding sulfide-quinone reductase (SQR; E.C.1.8.5.'), the enzyme catalyzing the first step of anoxygenic photosynthesis in the filamentous cyanobacterium Oscillatoria limnetica, was cloned by use of amino acid sequences of tryptic peptides as well as sequences conserved in the Rhodobacter capsulatus SQR and in an open reading frame found in the genome of Aquifex aeolicus. SQR activity was also detected in the unicellular cyanobacterium Aphanothece halophytica following sulfide induction, with a V(max) of 180 micromol of plastoquinone-1 (PQ-1) reduced/mg of chlorophyll/h and apparent K(m) values of 20 and 40 microM for sulfide and quinone, respectively. Based on the conserved sequences, the gene encoding A. halophytica SQR was also cloned. The SQR polypeptides deduced from the two cyanobacterial genes consist of 436 amino acids for O. limnetica SQR and 437 amino acids for A. halophytica SQR and show 58% identity and 74% similarity. The calculated molecular mass is about 48 kDa for both proteins; the theoretical isoelectric points are 7.7 and 5.6 and the net charges at a neutral pH are 0 and -14 for O. limnetica SQR and A. halophytica SQR, respectively. A search of databases showed SQR homologs in the genomes of the cyanobacterium Anabaena PCC7120 as well as the chemolithotrophic bacteria Shewanella putrefaciens and Thiobacillus ferrooxidans. All SQR enzymes contain characteristic flavin adenine dinucleotide binding fingerprints. The cyanobacterial proteins were expressed in Escherichia coli under the control of the T7 promoter. Membranes isolated from E. coli cells expressing A. halophytica SQR performed sulfide-dependent PQ-1 reduction that was sensitive to the quinone analog inhibitor 2n-nonyl-4-hydroxyquinoline-N-oxide. The wide distribution of SQR genes emphasizes the important role of SQR in the sulfur cycle in nature.