A mutant of Escherichia coli K-12, JCB606, which lacks all five c-type cytochromes synthesized during anaerobic growth in the presence of nitrite or trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO), was totally defective in Nrf activity and also partially defective in TMAO reductase activity. The mutation in strain JCB606 was shown to affect expression of the tor operon, which contributes almost equally with the products of the dms operon to the rate of TMAO reduction by bacteria during anaerobic growth in the presence of TMAO. The mutation in strain JCB606, dipZ, was mapped by P1 transduction close to the mel operon at co-ordinate 4425 on the E. coli chromosome, the gene order being nrf-fdhF-mel-dipZ-ampC. Recombinant plasmids that restored Nrf activity to test-tube cultures of the mutant were isolated from a cosmid library. A 2.7 kb EcoRV-SmaI fragment (co-ordinates 4443 to 4446 kb on the physical map of the E. coli chromosome) was found potentially to encode three genes arranged in at least two operons. The second gene, dipZ, was sufficient to complement the JCB606 mutation. The translated DNA sequence predicts that DipZ is a 53 kDa integral membrane protein with a 37 kDa N-terminal domain including at least six membrane-spanning helices and a 16 kDa carboxy-terminal hydrophilic domain which includes a protein disulphide isomerase-like motif. It is suggested that DipZ is essential for maintaining cytochrome c apoproteins in the correct conformations for the covalent attachment of haem groups to the appropriate pairs of cysteine residues.