The water-soluble cytochrome b557 from the photosynthetic bacterium Rhodobacter capsulatus was purified and shown to have the properties of the iron-storage protein bacterioferritin. The molecular mass of R. capsulatus bacterioferritin is 428 kDa and it is composed of a single type of 18-kDa subunit. The N-terminal amino acid sequence of the bacterioferritin subunit shows 70% identity to the sequence of bacterioferritin subunits from Escherichia coli, Nitrobacter winogradskyi, Azotobacter vinelandii and Synechocystis PCC 6803. The absorbance spectrum of reduced bacterioferritin shows absorbance maxima at 557 nm (alpha band), 526 nm (beta band) and 417 nm (Soret band) from the six haem groups/molecule. Antibody assays reveal that bacterioferritin is located in the cytoplasm of R. capsulatus, and its levels stay relatively constant during batch growth under aerobic conditions when the iron concentration in the medium is kept constant. Iron deficiency leads to a decrease in bacterioferritin and iron overload leads to an increase. Bacterioferritin from R. capsulatus has an amorphous iron-oxide core with a high phosphate content (900-1000 Fe atoms and approximately 600 phosphates/bacterioferritin molecule). Mössbauer spectroscopy indicates that in both aerobically and anaerobically (phototrophically) grown cells bacterioferritin with an Fe3+ core is formed, suggesting that iron-core formation in vivo may not always require molecular oxygen.