The nucleotide sequence of the puf operon, which contains the genes encoding the B870 light-harvesting protein and the reaction center complex of the purple photosynthetic bacterium, Rhodovulum sulfidophilum, was determined. The operon, which consisted of six genes, pufQ, pufB, pufA, pufL, pufM, and pufC, is a new variety in photosynthetic bacteria in the sense that pufQ and pufC coexist. The amino acid sequence of the cytochrome subunit of the reaction center deduced from the pufC sequence revealed that this cytochrome contains only three possible heme-binding motifs; the heme-1-binding motif of the corresponding tetraheme cytochrome subunits was not present. This is the first exception of the "tetraheme" cytochrome family in purple bacteria and green filamentous bacteria. The pufC sequence also revealed that the sixth axial ligands to heme-1 and heme-2 irons were not present in the cytochrome either. This cytochrome was actually detected in membrane preparation as a 43-kDa protein and shown to associate functionally with the photosynthetic reaction center as the immediate electron donor to the photo-oxidized special pair of bacteriochlorophyll. This new cytochrome should be useful for studies on the role of each heme in the cytochrome subunit of the bacterial reaction center and the evolution of proteins in photosynthetic electron transfer systems.