Deamino-NADH/ubiquinone 1 oxidoreductase activity in membrane preparations from Escherichia coli GR19N is 20-50% of NADH/ubiquinone 1 oxidoreductase activity. In comparison, membranes from E. coli IY91, which contain amplified levels of NADH dehydrogenase, exhibit about 100-fold higher NADH/ubiquinone 1 reductase activity but about 20-fold less deamino-NADH/ubiquinone 1 reductase activity. Deamino-NADH/ubiquinone 1 reductase is more sensitive than NADH/ubiquinone 1 reductase activity to inhibition by 3-undecyl-2-hydroxyl-1,4-naphthoquinone, piericidin A, or myxothiazol. Furthermore, GR19N membranes exhibit two apparent Kms for NADH but only one for deamino-NADH. Inside-out membrane vesicles from E. coli GR19N generate a H+ electrochemical gradient (interior positive and acid) during electron transfer from deamino-NADH to ubiquinone 1 that is large and stable relative to that observed with NADH as substrate. Generation of the H+ electrochemical gradient in the presence of deamino-NADH is inhibited by 3-undecyl-2-hydroxy-1,4-naphthoquinone and is not observed in IY91 membrane vesicles or in vesicles from GR19N that are deficient in deamino-NADH/ubiquinone 1 reductase activity. The data provide a strong indication that the E. coli aerobic respiratory chain contains two species of NADH dehydrogenases: (i) an enzyme (NADH dh I) that reacts with deamino-NADH or NADH whose turnover leads to generation of a H+ electrochemical gradient at a site between the primary dehydrogenase and ubiquinone and (ii) an enzyme (NADH dh II) that reacts with NADH exclusively whose turnover does not lead to generation of a H+ electrochemical gradient between the primary dehydrogenase and ubiquinone 1.