Vibrio cholerae was found to have two sets of genes encoding TonB, ExbB and ExbD proteins. The first set (tonB1, exbB1, exbD1) was obtained by complementation of a V. cholerae tonB mutant. In the mutant, a plasmid containing these genes permitted transport via the known V. cholerae high-affinity iron transport systems, including uptake of haem, vibriobactin and ferrichrome. When chromosomal mutations in exbB1 or exbD1 were introduced into a wild-type V. cholerae background, no defect in iron transport was noted, indicating the existence of additional genes that can complement the defect in the wild-type background. Another region of the V. cholerae chromosome was cloned that encoded a second functional TonB/Exb system (tonB2, exbB2, exbD2). A chromosomal mutation in exbB2 also failed to exhibit a defect in iron transport, but a V. cholerae strain that had chromosomal mutations in both the exbB1 and exbB2 genes displayed a mutant phenotype similar to that of an Escherichia coli tonB mutant. The genes encoding TonB1, ExbB1, ExbD1 were part of an operon that included three haem transport genes (hutBCD), and all six genes appeared to be expressed from a single Fur-regulated promoter upstream of tonB1. A plasmid containing all six genes permitted utilization of haem by an E. coli strain expressing the V. cholerae haem receptor, HutA. Analysis of the hut genes indicated that hutBCD, which are predicted to encode a periplasmic binding protein (HutB) and cytoplasmic membrane permease (HutC and HutD), were required to reconstitute the V. cholerae haem transport system in E. coli. In V. cholerae, the presence of hutBCD stimulated growth when haemin was the iron source, but these genes were not essential for haemin utilization in V. cholerae.