The nosZ genes encoding the multicopper enzyme nitrous oxide reductase of Alcaligenes eutrophus H16 and the type strain of Pseudomonas aeruginosa were cloned and sequenced for structural comparison of their gene products with the homologous product of the nosZ gene from Pseudomonas stutzeri [Viebrock, A. & Zumft, W. G. (1988) J. Bacteriol. 170, 4658-4668] and the subunit II of cytochrome-c oxidase (COII). Both types of enzymes possess the CuA binding site. The nosZ genes were identified in cosmid libraries by hybridization with an internal 1.22-kb PstI fragment (NS220) of nosZ from P. stutzeri. The derived amino acid sequences indicate unprocessed gene products of 70084 Da (A. eutrophus) and 70695 Da (P. aeruginosa). The N-terminal sequences of the NosZ proteins have the characteristics of signal peptides for transport. A homologous domain, extending over at least 50 residues, is shared among the three derived NosZ sequences and the CuA binding region of 32 COII sequences. Only three out of nine cysteine residues of the NosZ protein (P. stutzeri) are invariant. Cys618 and Cys622 are assigned to a binuclear center, A, which is thought to represent the CuA site of NosZ and is located close to the C terminus. Two conserved histidines, one methionine, one aspartate, one valine and two aromatic residues are also part of the CuA consensus sequence, which is the domain homologous between the two enzymes. The CuA consensus sequence, however, lacks four strictly conserved residues present in all COII sequences. Cys165 is likely to be a ligand of a second binuclear center, Z, for which we assume mainly histidine coordination. Of 23 histidine residues in NosZ (P. stutzeri), 14 are invariant, 7 of which are in regions with a degree of conservation well above the 50% positional identity between the Alcaligenes and Pseudomonas sequences. Conserved tryptophan residues are located close to several potential copper ligands. Trp615 may contribute to the observed quenching of fluorescence when the CuA site is occupied.