The nucleotide sequence of a 6.5 kilobasepair chromosomal DNA fragment encoding the anaerobic dimethylsulphoxide (DMSO) reductase operon of Escherichia coli has been determined. The DMSO reductase structural operon was shown to consist of three open reading frames, namely dmsABC, encoding polypeptides with predicted molecular weights of 87,350, 23,070, and 30,789 Daltons, respectively. The DMS A polypeptide displayed a high degree of amino acid sequence homology with the single-subunit enzyme, biotin sulphoxide reductase (bisC) and with formate dehydrogenase (fdhF), suggesting that the active site and molybdopterin cofactor binding site that is common to these enzymes is located in the DMS A subunit. A comparison of the predicted N-terminal amino acids of the dmsA gene product to those of the 82,600 subunit of purified DMSO reductase indicated that post-translational processing of a 16 amino acid peptide at the amino terminus of DMS A had occurred. The DMS B polypeptide contains 16 cysteine residues organized in four clusters, two of which are typical of 4Fe-4S binding domains. The DMS C polypeptide is composed of eight segments of hydrophobic amino acids of appropriate length to cross the cytoplasmic membrane, suggesting that this subunit functions to anchor the enzyme to the membrane.