Red chlorophyll (Chl) catabolite (RCC) reductase, which catalyzes the reaction of an intermediary Chl catabolite (RCC) in the two-step cleavage reaction of pheophorbide (Pheide) a into primary fluorescent catabolites (pFCCs) during Chl breakdown, was characterized and partially purified. RCC reductase activity was present at all stages of barley leaf development and even in roots. The highest specific activity was found in senescent leaves, which were used to purify RCC reductase 1000-fold. Among the remaining three proteins, RCC reductase activity was most likely associated with a 55-kD protein. RCC reductase exhibited saturation kinetics for RCC, with an apparent Michaelis constant of 0.6 mM. The reaction depended on reduced ferredoxin and was sensitive to oxygen. Assays of purified RCC reductase with chemically synthesized RCC as a substrate yielded three different FCCs, two of which could be identified as the stereoisomeric pFCCs from canola (Brassica napus) (pFCC-1) and sweet pepper (Capsicum annuum) (pFCC-2), respectively. In the coupled reaction with Pheide a oxidase and RCC reductase, either pFCC-1 or pFCC-2 was produced, depending on the plant species employed as a source of RCC reductase. Data from 18 species suggest that the stereospecific action of RCC reductase is uniform within a plant family.