The deep-sea tube worm Lamellibrachia, belonging to the Phylum Vestimentifera, contains two giant extracellular haemoglobins, a 3000 kDa haemoglobin and a 440 kDa haemoglobin. The former consists of four haem-containing chains (AI-AIV) and two linker chains (AV and AVI) for the assembly of the haem-containing chains [Suzuki, Takagi & Ohta (1988) Biochem. J. 255, 541-545]. The tube-worm haemoglobins are believed to have a function of transporting sulphide (H2S) to internal bacterial symbionts, as well as of facilitating O2 transport [Arp & Childress (1983) Science 219, 295-297]. We have determined the complete amino acid sequence of Lamellibrachia chain AIII by automated or manual Edman sequencing. The chain is composed of 144 amino acid residues, has three cysteine residues at positions 3, 74 and 133, and has a molecular mass of 16,620 Da, including a haem group. The sequence showed significant homology (30-50% identity) with those of haem-containing chains of annelid giant haemoglobins. Two of the three cysteine residues are located at the positions where an intrachain disulphide bridge is formed in all annelid chains, but the remaining one (Cys-74) was located at a unique position, compared with annelid chains. Since the chain AIII was shown to have a reactive thiol group in the intact 3000 kDa molecule by preliminary experiments, the cysteine residue at position 74 appears to be one of the most probable candidates for the sulphide-binding sites. A phylogenetic tree was constructed from nine chains of annelid giant haemoglobins and one chain of vestimentiferan tube-worm haemoglobin now determined. The tree clearly showed that Lamellibrachia chain AIII belongs to the family of strain A of annelid giant haemoglobins, and that the two classes of Annelida, polychaete and oligochaete, and the vestimentiferan tube worm diverged at almost the same time. H.p.l.c. patterns of peptides (Figs. 4-7), amino acid compositions of peptides (Table 2) and amino acid sequences of intact protein and peptides (Table 3) have been deposited as Supplementary Publication SUP 50154 (13 pages) at the British Library Document Supply Centre, Boston Spa, Wetherby, West Yorkshire LS23 7BQ, U.K., from whom copies can be obtained on the terms indicated in Biochem. J. (1990) 265, 5.

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