The structure of coenzyme F(420) in Mycobacterium smegmatis was examined using proton NMR, amino acid analysis, and HPLC. The two major F(420) structures were shown to be composed of a chromophore identical to that of F(420) from Methanobacterium thermoautotrophicum, with a side chain of a ribityl residue, a lactyl residue and five or six glutamate groups (F(420)-5 and F(420)-6). Peptidase treatment studies suggested that L-glutamate groups are linked by gamma-glutamyl bonds in the side chain. HPLC analysis indicated that Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Mycobacterium bovis BCG, and Mycobacterium fortuitum have F(420)-5 and F(420)-6 as the predominant structures, whereas Mycobacterium avium contains F(420)-5, F(420)-6 and F(420)-7 in significant amounts. 7,8-Didemethyl 8-hydroxy 5-deazariboflavin (FO), an intermediate in F(420) biosynthesis, accounted for about 1-7% of the total deazaflavin in cells. Peptidase treatment of F(420) created F(420) derivatives that may be useful for the assay of enzymes involved in F(420) biosynthesis.