The genome sequence of the pathogenic bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis revealed numerous cytochrome P450 enzymes, which require accessory redox enzymes for catalytic function (ferredoxin reductase and ferredoxin). The most likely ferredoxin reductase is encoded by fprA, and its structure resembles eukaryotic adrenodoxin reductases. We have cloned, expressed and purified the flavoenzyme product of the fprA gene in Escherichia coli. FprA reduces various electron acceptors using either NADPH or NADH as the electron donor, but discriminates in favour of NADPH (apparent K (m) for NADH=50.6+/-3.1 microM; NADPH=4.1+/-0.3 microM from ferricyanide reduction experiments). Stopped-flow studies of reduction of the FprA FAD by NADPH demonstrate increased flavin reduction rate at low NADPH concentration (<200 microM), consistent with the presence of a second, kinetically distinct and inhibitory, pyridine nucleotide-binding site, similar to that identified in human cytochrome P450 reductase [Gutierrez, Lian, Wolf, Scrutton and Roberts (2001) Biochemistry 40, 1964-1975]. Flavin reduction by NADH is slower than with NADPH and displays hyperbolic dependence on NADH concentration [maximal reduction rate (k (red))=25.4+/-0.7 s(-1), apparent K (d)=42.9+/-4.6 microM]. Flavin reoxidation by molecular oxygen is more rapid for NADH-reduced enzyme. Reductive titrations show that the enzyme forms a species with spectral characteristics typical of a neutral (blue) FAD semiquinone only on reduction with NADPH, consistent with EPR studies. The second order dependence of semiquinone formation on the concentration of FprA indicates a disproportionation reaction involving oxidized and two-electron-reduced FprA. Titration of FprA with dithionite converts oxidized FAD into the hydroquinone form; the flavin semiquinone is not populated under these conditions. The midpoint reduction potential for the two electron couple is -235+/-5 mV (versus the normal hydrogen electrode), similar to that for adrenodoxin reductase (-274 mV). Our data provide a thermodynamic and transient kinetic framework for catalysis by FprA, and complement recent spectrophotometric and steady-state studies of the enzyme [Fischer, Raimondi, Aliverti and Zanetti (2002) Eur. J. Biochem. 269, 3005-3013].