Site-directed mutagenesis was utilized to enable direct expression of the mature form of bovine adrenodoxin cDNA using the pKK223-3 expression vector in Escherichia coli. Expression was under control of the "tac" promoter and resulted in a direct expression of soluble mature bovine adrenodoxin (greater than 15 mg per liter). Chromatographic behavior of recombinant adrenodoxin did not differ from that reported for mature native adrenodoxin. The purified recombinant protein was identical to native mitochondrial adrenodoxin on the basis of molecular weight, NH2 terminal sequencing and immunoreactivity. E. coli lysates were brown in color, and the purified protein possessed a visible absorbance spectra identical to native bovine adrenodoxin consistent with incorporation of a [2Fe-2S] cluster in vivo. Recombinant bovine adrenodoxin was active in cholesterol side-chain cleavage when reconstituted with adrenodoxin reductase and cytochrome P450scc and exhibited kinetics reported for native bovine adrenodoxin. The presence of the adrenodoxin amino terminal presequence does not appear to be essential for correct folding of mature recombinant adrenodoxin in E. coli. This expression system should prove useful for overexpression of adrenodoxin mutants in future structure/function studies. The approach described herein can potentially be used to directly express the mature form of any protein in bacteria.