NADH:ubiquinone oxidoreductase, the respiratory chain complex I of mitochondria, is an assembly of some 25 nuclear-encoded and 7 mitochondrially encoded subunits. The complex has an overall L-shaped structure formed by a peripheral arm and an elongated membrane arm. The peripheral arm containing one FMN and at least three iron-sulphur clusters constitutes the NADH dehydrogenase segment of the electron pathway. The membrane arm with at least one iron-sulphur cluster constitutes the ubiquinone reducing segment. We are studying the assembly of the complex in Neurospora crassa. By disrupting the gene of a nuclear-encoded subunit of the membrane arm a mutant was generated that cannot form complex I. The mutant rather pre-assembles the peripheral arm with all redox groups and the ability to catalyse NADH oxidation by artificial electron acceptors. The final assembly of the membrane arm is blocked in the mutant leading to accumulation of complementary assembly intermediates. One intermediate is associated with a protein that is not present in the fully assembled complex I. The results demonstrate that the two arms of complex I are assembled independently on separate pathways, and gave a first insight into the assembly pathway of the membrane arm. It is also shown for the first time that the obligate aerobic fungus N. crassa can grow and respire without an intact complex I. Gene replacement in this fungus is therefore a tool for investigation of this complex.