Phenol hydroxylase (PH) from Acinetobacter radioresistens S13 represents an example of multicomponent aromatic ring monooxygenase made up of three moieties: a reductase (PHR), an oxygenase (PHO) and a regulative component (PHI). The function of the oxygenase component (PHO), here characterized for the first time, is to bind molecular oxygen and catalyse the mono-hydroxylation of substrates (phenol, and with less efficiency, chloro- and methyl-phenol and naphthol). PHO was purified from extracts of A. radioresistens S13 cells and shown to be a dimer of 206 kDa. Each monomer is composed by three subunits: alpha (54 kDa), beta (38 kDa) and gamma (11 kDa). The gene encoding PHO alpha (named mopN) was cloned and sequenced and the corresponding amino acid sequence matched with that of functionally related oxygenases. By structural alignment with the catalytic subunits of methane monooxygenase (MMO) and alkene monooxygenase, we propose that PHO alpha contains the enzyme active site, harbouring a dinuclear iron centre Fe-O-Fe, as also suggested by spectral analysis. Conserved hydrophobic amino acids known to define the substrate recognition pocket, are also present in the alpha-subunit. The prevalence of alpha-helices (99.6%) as studied by CD confirmed the hypothized structural homologies between PHO and MMO. Three parameters (optimum ionic strength, temperature and pH) that affect kinetics of the overall phenol hydroxylase reaction were further analyzed with a fixed optimal PHR/PHI/PHO ratio of 2/1/1. The highest level of activity was evaluated between 0.075 and 0.1 m of ionic strength, the temperature dependence showed a maximum of activity at 24 degrees C and finally the pH for optimal activity was determined to be 7.5.