We report 441.6 nm excitation resonance Raman spectra of oxidized and reduced monomeric heme a-imidazole, cytochrome oxidase-exogenous ligand complexes in various redox states, and alkaline denatured oxidase. These data show that, in reduced oxidase, the cytochrome a3 Raman spectrum has bands at 215, 364, 1230, and 1670 cm-1 not observed in the cytochrome a spectrum. The appearance of these bands in the reduced cytochrome a3 spectrum is due to interactions between the heme a of cytochrome a3 and its protein environment and not to intrinsic properties of heme a. These interactions are pH sensitive and strongly influence the vibrational spectra of both heme a groups. We assign the 1670-cm-1 band to the heme a formyl substituent and propose that the intensity of the 1670 cm-1 is high for reduced cytochrome a3 because the C==O lies in the porphyrin plane and is very weak for oxidized and reduced cytochrome a, oxidized cytochrome a3, and oxidized and reduced heme a-imidazole because the C==O lies out of the plane. We suggest that movement of the C==O in and out of the plane explains the ligand induced spectral shift in the optical absorption spectrum of reduced cytochrome a3. Finally, we confirm the observation of Adar & Yonetani (private communication) that, under laser illumination, resting oxidase is photoreactive.