A method has been devised which allowed the isolation of highly purified reaction center from the thermophilic green bacterium, Chloroflexus aurantiacus. The procedure consisted of three chromatography steps. The final step was fast protein liquid chromatography on Mono Q in the presence of nonanoyl-N-methylglucamide (Mega-9). The purified reaction center complex was photochemically active and had an A280/A813 of 1.4 or less. Under non-denaturing conditions, a pigmented protein band having a Mr of 52,000-55,000 was observed in sodium dodecyl sulfate gels. When the isolated complex was heat-dissociated in the presence of sodium dodecyl sulfate, just two polypeptides having very similar Mr (24,000 and 24,500) were observed. Two protein bands were also observed in two-dimensional isoelectric focusing/sodium-dodecyl-sulfate polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis; the PI values of the two polypeptides were 6.5 and 6.7. Partial peptide mapping of the two isolated subunits, using both enzymatic and chemical cleavage techniques, yielded almost identical patterns which indicated a high degree of sequence homology between the two polypeptides. The N-terminal amino acid sequences of the two polypeptides were identical and did not exhibit any homology to reaction center subunits of purple sulfur bacteria. The Chloroflexus reaction center is believed to be composed of one molecule of each polypeptide, the photoactive bacteriochlorophyll a dimer and, as accessory pigments, an additional bacteriochlorophyll a and three bacteriopheophytins. Hence, it appears to be the smallest photochemically active reaction center isolated to date.