Ribonucleotide reductase is a heterodimeric (alpha(2)beta(2)) allosteric enzyme that catalyzes the conversion of ribonucleotides to deoxyribonucleotides, an essential step in DNA biosynthesis and repair. In the enzymatically active form aerobic Escherichia coli ribonucleotide reductase is a complex of homodimeric R1 and R2 proteins. We use electrochemical studies of the dinuclear center to clarify the interplay of subunit interaction, the binding of allosteric effectors and substrate selectivity. Our studies show for the first time that electrochemical reduction of active R2 generates a distinct Met form of the diiron cluster, with a midpoint potential (-163 +/- 3 mV) different from that of R2(Met) produced by hydroxyurea (-115 +/- 2 mV). The redox potentials of both Met forms experience negative shifts when measured in the presence of R1, becoming -223 +/- 6 and -226 +/- 3 mV, respectively, demonstrating that R1-triggered conformational changes favor one configuration of the diiron cluster. We show that the association of a substrate analog and specificity effector (dGDP/dTTP or GMP/dTTP) with R1 regulates the redox properties of the diiron centers in R2. Their midpoint potential in the complex shifts to -192 +/- 2 mV for dGDP/dTTP and to -203 +/- 3 mV for GMP/dTTP. In contrast, reduction potential measurements show that the diiron cluster is not affected by ATP (0.35-1.45 mm) and dATP (0.3-0.6 mm) binding to R1. Binding of these effectors to the R1-R2 complex does not perturb the normal docking modes between R1 and R2 as similar redox shifts are observed for ATP or dATP associated with the R1-R2 complex.