Wolinella succinogenes grows by anaerobic respiration using hydrogen gas as electron donor. The hydE gene is located on the genome downstream of the structural genes encoding the membrane-bound NiFe-hydrogenase complex (HydABC) and a putative protease (HydD) possibly involved in hydrogenase maturation. Homologs of hydE are found in the vicinity of NiFe-hydrogenase-encoding genes on the genomes of several other proteobacteria. A hydE deletion mutant of W. succinogenes does not catalyze hydrogen oxidation with various electron acceptors. The hydrogenase iron-sulfur subunit HydA is absent in mutant cells whereas the apparently processed NiFe subunit (HydB) is located exclusively in the soluble cell fraction. It is suggested that HydE is involved in the maturation and/or stability of HydA or the HydAB complex in some, but not all bacteria containing NiFe-hydrogenases.