NADH:ubiquinone oxidoreductase (complex I) from bovine heart mitochondria is a complicated, multi-subunit, membrane-bound assembly. Recently, the subunit compositions of complex I and three of its subcomplexes have been reevaluated comprehensively. The subunits were fractionated by three independent methods, each based on a different property of the subunits. Forty-six different subunits, with a combined molecular mass of 980 kDa, were identified. The three subcomplexes, I alpha, I beta and I lambda, correlate with parts of the membrane extrinsic and membrane-bound domains of the complex. Therefore, the partitioning of subunits amongst these subcomplexes has provided information about their arrangement within the L-shaped structure. The sequences of 45 subunits of complex I have been determined. Seven of them are encoded by mitochondrial DNA, and 38 are products of the nuclear genome, imported into the mitochondrion from the cytoplasm. Post-translational modifications of many of the nuclear encoded subunits of complex I have been identified. The seven mitochondrially encoded subunits, and seven of the nuclear encoded subunits, are homologues of the 14 subunits found in prokaryotic complexes I. They are considered to be sufficient for energy transduction by complex I, and they are known as the core subunits. The core subunits bind a flavin mononucleotide (FMN) at the active site for NADH oxidation, up to eight iron-sulfur clusters, and one or more ubiquinone molecules. The locations of some of the cofactors can be inferred from the sequences of the core subunits. The remaining 31 subunits of bovine complex I are the supernumerary subunits, which may be important either for the stability of the complex, or for its assembly. Sequence relationships suggest that some of them carry out reactions unrelated to the NADH:ubiquinone oxidoreductase activity of the complex.