A [2Fe-2S] ferredoxin (Fd1) from the hyperthermophilic bacterium Aquifex aeolicus has been obtained by heterologous expression of the encoding gene in Escherichia coli. Sequence comparisons show that this protein belongs to the extended family of plant- and mammalian-type [2Fe-2S] ferredoxins but also indicate that it is not closely similar to either the plant-type or mammalian-type subfamilies. Instead, it appears to bear some similarity to novel members of this family, in particular the Isc-type ferredoxins involved in the assembly of iron-sulfur clusters in vivo. The two redox levels of the [2Fe-2S](2+/+) metal site of A. aeolicus ferredoxin have been studied by UV-visible, resonance Raman, EPR, variable temperature magnetic circular dichroism, and Mössbauer spectroscopies. A full-spin Hamiltonian analysis is given for the Mössbauer spectra. In aggregate, the spectroscopic data reveal differences with both the plant-type and mammalian-type ferredoxins, in keeping with the sequence comparisons. The midpoint potential of the [2Fe-2S](2+/+) couple, at -375 mV versus the normal hydrogen electrode, is more negative than those of mammalian-type ferredoxins and at the upper end of the range covered by plant-type ferredoxins. A. aeolicus ferredoxin contains two cysteines in addition to the four that are committed as ligands of the [2Fe-2S] cluster. These two residues have been shown by chemical modification and site-directed mutagenesis to form a disulfide bridge in the native protein. While that cystine unit plays a significant role in the exceptional thermostability of A. aeolicus ferredoxin (T(m) = 121 degrees C at pH 7 versus T(m) = 113 degrees C in a molecular variant where the disulfide bridge has been removed), it does not bear on the properties of the [2Fe-2S](2+/+) chromophore. This observation is consistent with the large distance (ca. 20 A) that is predicted to separate the iron-sulfur chromophore from the disulfide bridge.