Heterodisulfide reductase (HDR) is a component of the energy-conserving electron transfer system in methanogens. HDR catalyzes the two-electron reduction of coenzyme B-S-S-coenzyme M (CoB-S-S-CoM), the heterodisulfide product of the methyl-CoM reductase reaction, to free thiols, HS-CoB and HS-CoM. HDR from Methanosarcina thermophila contains two b-hemes and two [Fe(4)S(4)] clusters. The physiological electron donor for HDR appears to be methanophenazine (MPhen), a membrane-bound cofactor, which can be replaced by a water-soluble analog, 2-hydroxyphenazine (HPhen). This report describes the electron transfer pathway from reduced HPhen (HPhenH(2)) to CoB-S-S-CoM. Steady-state kinetic studies indicate a ping-pong mechanism for heterodisulfide reduction by HPhenH(2) with the following values: k(cat) = 74 s(-1) at 25 degrees C, K(m) (HPhenH(2)) = 92 microm, K(m) (CoB-S-S-CoM) = 144 microm. Rapid freeze-quench EPR and stopped-flow kinetic studies and inhibition experiments using CO and diphenylene iodonium indicate that only the low spin heme and the high potential FeS cluster are involved in CoB-S-S-CoM reduction by HPhenH(2). Fe-S cluster disruption by mersalyl acid inhibits heme reduction by HPhenH(2), suggesting that a 4Fe cluster is the initial electron acceptor from HPhenH(2). We propose the following electron transfer pathway: HPhenH(2) to the high potential 4Fe cluster, to the low potential heme, and finally, to CoB-S-S-CoM.