Sulfur dehydrogenase, Sox(CD)(2), is an essential part of the sulfur-oxidizing enzyme system of the chemotrophic bacterium Paracoccus pantotrophus. Sox(CD)(2) is a alpha(2)beta(2) complex composed of the molybdoprotein SoxC (43 442 Da) and the hybrid diheme c-type cytochrome SoxD (37 637 Da). Sox(CD)(2) catalyzes the oxidation of protein-bound sulfur to sulfate with a unique six-electron transfer. Amino acid sequence analysis identified the heme-1 domain of SoxD proteins to be specific for sulfur dehydrogenases and to contain a novel ProCysMetXaaAspCys motif, while the heme-2 domain is related to various cytochromes c(2). Purification of sulfur dehydrogenase without protease inhibitor yielded a dimeric SoxCD(1) complex consisting of SoxC and SoxD(1) of 30 kDa, which contained only the heme-1 domain. The heme-2 domain was isolated as a new cytochrome SoxD(2) of about 13 kDa. Both hemes of SoxD in Sox(CD)(2) are redox-active with midpoint potentials at E(m)1 = 218 +/- 10 mV and E(m)2 = 268 +/- 10 mV, while SoxCD(1) and SoxD(2) both exhibit a midpoint potential of E(m) = 278 +/- 10 mV. Electrochemically induced FTIR difference spectra of Sox(CD)(2), SoxCD(1), and SoxD(2) were distinct. A carboxy group is protonated upon reduction of the SoxD(1) heme but not for SoxD(2). The specific activity of SoxCD(1) and Sox(CD)(2) was identical as was the yield of electrons with thiosulfate in the reconstituted Sox enzyme system. To examine the physiological significance of the heme-2 domain, a mutant was constructed that was deleted for the heme-2 domain, which produced SoxCD(1) and transferred electrons from thiosulfate to oxygen. These data demonstrated the crucial role of the heme-1 domain of SoxD for catalytic activity, electron yield, and transfer of the electrons to the cytoplasmic membrane, while the heme-2 domain mediated the alpha(2)beta(2) tetrameric structure of sulfur dehydrogenase.