Catalysis by microsomal cytochromes P450 requires the membrane-bound enzyme NADPH-cytochrome P450 reductase (P450 reductase), which transfers electrons to the P450 heme via a flavodoxin-like domain. Previously, we reported that Escherichia coli flavodoxin (Fld), a soluble electron transfer protein, directly interacts with bovine cytochrome P450 17alpha-hydroxylase/17,20-lyase (P450c17) and donates electrons to this enzyme when reconstituted with NADPH-ferredoxin (flavodoxin) reductase (FNR) (Jenkins, C. M., and Waterman, M. R. (1994) J. Biol. Chem. 269, 27401-27408). To investigate whether flavodoxins can serve as useful models of the analogous domain in P450 reductase, we have examined the FNR-Fld system from the cyanobacterium Anabaena. Mutagenesis of two acidic Anabaena Fld residues (D144A and E145A) significantly decreased flavodoxin-supported P450c17 progesterone 17alpha-hydroxylase activity. Specifically, D144A exhibited only 15% of the activity of wild-type Fld, whereas the adjacent mutation, E145A, caused a 40% loss in activity. P450-dependent hydrogen peroxide/superoxide production by wild-type FNR-Fld was measurably higher than that generated by FNR-D144A or FNR-E145A, indicating that the mutations do not lead to P450 heme-mediated electron uncoupling. Interestingly, the D144A and E145A mutants bind with equal or even greater affinity to P450c17 than wild-type Fld. Furthermore, these mutations (D144A and E145A) actually increased cytochrome c reductase activity (35 and 100% higher than wild type). Anabaena Fld residues Asp144 and Glu145 align closely with rat P450 reductase residue Asp208, which has been shown by mutagenesis to be important in electron transfer to P4502B1 but not to cytochrome c (Shen, A. L., and Kasper, C. B. (1995) J. Biol. Chem. 270, 27475-27480). Thus, these residues in flavodoxins and P450 reductase appear to have similar functions in P450 recognition and/or electron transfer, supporting the hypothesis that flavodoxins represent valid models for the FMN-binding domain of P450 reductase.