A high salt nuclear extract from the true slime mold Physarum polycephalum was used as a source of kinase activity for the incubation of calf thymus histones with [gamma-32P]ATP. A major proportion of the 32P incorporated into histones was acid-labile and alkali-stable. The nature of the alkali-stable phosphorylated component was analyzed by subjecting the phosphorylated protein to total alkaline hydrolysis and separating the resultant phosphoamino acids by anion exchange chromatography. The 32P-labeled material co-chromatographed with phosphohistidine standards and did not co-chromatograph with phosphoserine, phosphothreonine, or phosphotyrosine standards. In similar experiments using reversed phase high-performance liquid chromatography to separate the phosphoamino acids, the 32P-labeled phosphoamino acid behaved like the 1-isomer of phosphohistidine, in not being retained by the column, and unlike 3-phosphohistidine, phosphoserine, phosphothreonine, phosphotyrosine, and phosphoarginine, which were all retained on the column. Histone H4 was a good substrate for the histidine kinase activity and the location of the phosphorylated histidine residue was probed by peptide mapping using chymotrypsin or V8 protease. Both maps were consistent with labeling of histidine 75 and inconsistent with labeling of histidine 18. The data show that Physarum nuclei contain a major kinase activity which produces phosphohistidine. The methods we have developed for studying this kinase activity provide the basis for a complete characterization of the structure and function of the Physarum enzyme and can be applied to the study of similar kinase activities in other systems.