A human-hepatoma cDNA lambda gt11 expression library was probed with an antibody to holoenzyme complex I (NADH-CoQ reductase) of the respiratory chain. One of the 30 antibody positive clones was purified to homogeneity, amplified by the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), subcloned and sequenced. It proved to be highly similar to the cDNA sequence for the bovine 75-kDa Fe--S protein. Using the sequence obtained from this library, both sense and antisense oligonucleotides were constructed and used to probe a human kidney cDNA library using PCR amplification with oligonucleotides that flank the polylinker region of the lambda phage. Two further cDNA clones were obtained which overlapped and covered the entire cDNA sequence of 2526 bp. The encoded protein of 727 amino acids has 21 amino acids that differ from the bovine-protein sequence. Northern blot analysis of mRNA from fibroblasts of complex-I deficient patients revealed no abnormalities. We show that this Fe--S protein has significant similarity with (a) the gamma chain of the hydrogen hydrogenase of Alcaligenes eutrophus and (b) the A chain of the formate dehydrogenase of Methanobacterium formicum.