Ferric reductase enzymes requiring a reductant for maximal activity were purified from the cytoplasmic and periplasmic fractions of avirulent and virulent Legionella pneumophila. The cytoplasmic and periplasmic enzymes are inhibited by zinc sulfate, constitutive and active under aerobic or anaerobic conditions. However, the periplasmic and cytoplasmic reductases are two distinct enzymes as shown by their molecular weights, specific activities, reductant specificities and other characteristics. The molecular weights of the cytoplasmic and periplasmic ferric reductases are approximately 38 and 25 kDa, respectively. The periplasmic reductase (Km = 7.0 microM) has a greater specific activity and twice the affinity for ferric citrate as the cytoplasmic enzyme (Km = 15.3 microM). Glutathione serves as the optimum reductant for the periplasmic reductase, but is inactive for the cytoplasmic enzyme. In contrast, NADPH is the optimum reductant for the cytoplasmic enzyme. Ferric reductases of avirulent cells show a 2-fold increase in their activities when NADPH is used as a reductant in comparison with NADH. In contrast, ferric reductases from virulent cells demonstrated an equivalent activity with NADH or NADPH as reductants. With the exception of their response to NADPH, the ferric reductase at each respective location appears to be similar for avirulent and virulent cells.