The non-heme iron(II) dioxygenase family of enzymes contain a common 2-His-1-carboxylate iron-binding motif. These enzymes catalyze a wide variety of oxidative reactions, such as the hydroxylation of aliphatic C-H bonds. Prolyl 4-hydroxylase (P4H) is an alpha-ketoglutarate-dependent iron(II) dioxygenase that catalyzes the post-translational hydroxylation of proline residues in protocollagen strands, stabilizing the ensuing triple helix. Human P4H residues His412, Asp414, and His483 have been identified as an iron-coordinating 2-His-1-carboxylate motif. Enzymes that catalyze oxidative halogenation do so by a mechanism similar to that of P4H. These halogenases retain the active-site histidine residues, but the carboxylate ligand is replaced with a halide ion. We replaced Asp414 of P4H with alanine (to mimic the active site of a halogenase) and with glycine. These substitutions do not, however, convert P4H into a halogenase. Moreover, the hydroxylase activity of D414A P4H cannot be rescued with small molecules. In addition, rearranging the two His and one Asp residues in the active site eliminates hydroxylase activity. Our results demonstrate a high stringency for the iron-binding residues in the P4H active site. We conclude that P4H, which catalyzes an especially demanding chemical transformation, is recalcitrant to change.