The reported crystal structures of plant and animal lipoxygenases (LOX) show that the nonheme iron in the catalytic domain is ligated by three histidines, the C-terminal isoleucine, and in certain structures also by a fifth iron ligand, an asparagine or histidine residue. Mouse 8-LOX and its homologues (e.g., human 15-LOX-2) are unique in having a serine in place of the usual Asn or His in this fifth position. To investigate the importance of the residue in mouse 8-LOX structure-function, the serine-558 was replaced by asparagine, histidine, or alanine using oligonucleotide-directed mutagenesis. Wild-type mouse 8-LOX and the mutant cDNAs were expressed in HeLa cells infected with vaccinia virus encoding T7 RNA polymerase and their relative lipoxygenase activities assessed by incubation with [14C]arachidonic acid or [14C]linoleic acid followed by HPLC analysis of the products. The Ser558Asn and Ser558His mutants had equivalent or greater activity than wild-type 8-LOX. They also exhibited some 15-LOX activity, indicating that small structural perturbations (in this case to a residue identical in mouse 8-LOX and its 15-LOX-2 homologues) can interchange the positional specificity of these closely related enzymes. Remarkably, the Ser558Ala mutant exhibited significant 8-LOX activity, indicating that this position is not an essential iron ligand in the enzyme. We conclude that mouse 8-LOX is catalytically competent with only four amino acid iron ligands, and that Ser-558 of the wild-type enzyme does not play an essential role in catalysis.