Employing deoxyoligonucleotide probes and Southern hybridizations, we have examined in carboxydotrophic bacteria the localization on the genome of genes encoding the large, medium and small subunits of CO dehydrogenase (coxL, M and S, respectively). In Pseudomonas carboxydovorans OM5 coxL, M and S were identified on the plasmid pHCG3; they were absent on the chromosome. This was evident from positive hybridizations with plasmid DNA of the wild-type strain OM5 and the absence of hybridizations with chromosomal DNA from the plasmid cured mutant strain OM5-12. The genes coxL, M and S were found on plasmids in all other plasmid-containing carboxydotrophic bacteria e.g. Alcaligenes carboxydus, Azomonas B1, Pseudomonas carboxydoflava, Pseudomonas carboxydovorans OM2 and OM4. Cox L, M and S could be identified on the chromosome of the plasmid-free bacteria Arthrobacter 11/x, Bacillus schlegelii, Pseudomonas carboxydohydrogena, and Pseudomonas carboxydovorans OM3. These results essentially confirm and extend former reports that cox genes are rather conserved among carboxydotrophic bacteria of distinct taxonomic position. However, Streptomyces thermoautotrophicus is an noteworthy exception since none of the three cox genes could be detected. This refers to a new type of CO dehydrogenase and is in accord with results indicating that the S. thermoautotrophicus CO dehydrogenase has an unusual electron acceptor specificity and some other properties setting it apart from the 'classical' CO dehydrogenases.