The genes encoding the two subunits (alpha and beta) of the cytochrome b559 (cyt b559) protein, psbE and psbF, were cloned from the unicellular, transformable cyanobacterium, Synechocystis 6803. Cyt b559, an intrinsic membrane protein, is a component of photosystem II, a membrane-protein complex that catalyzes photosynthetic oxygen evolution. However, the role of cyt b559 in photosynthetic electron transport is yet to be determined. A high degree of homology was found between the cyanobacterial and green plant chloroplastidic psbE and psbE genes and in the amino acid sequences of their corresponding protein products. Cartridge mutagenesis techniques were used to generate a deletion mutant of Synechocystis 6803 in which the psbE and psbF genes were replaced by a kanamycin-resistance gene cartridge. Physiological analyses indicated that the PSII complexes of the mutant were inactivated. We conclude that cyt b559 is an essential component of PSII.