Two cDNA clones (AOX1 and AOX2) and the corresponding genes encoding the alternative oxidases (AOXs) from Chlamydomonas reinhardtii were isolated and sequenced. The cDNAs, AOX1 and AOX2, contained open reading frames (ORFs) encoding putative proteins of 360 amino acids and 347 amino acids, respectively. For each of the ORFs, a potential mitochondrial-targeting sequence was found in the 5'-end regions. In comparison to AOX enzymes from plants and fungi, the predicted amino acid sequences of the ORFs showed their highest degree of identity with proteins from Aspergillus niger (38.1% and 37.2%) and Ajellomyces capsulatus (37% and 34.9%). Several residues supposed either to be Fe ligands or to be involved in the ubiquinol-binding site were fully conserved in both C. reinhardtii putative AOX proteins. In contrast, a cysteine residue conserved in the sequences of all higher plants and probably involved in the regulation of the enzyme activity was missing both from the AOX1 and AOX2 amino acid sequences and from protein sequences from various other microorganisms. The transcriptional expression of the AOX1 and AOX2 genes in wild-type cells and in mutant cells deficient in mitochondrial complex III activity was also investigated.