Whereas all other members of the extradiol-cleaving catechol dioxygenase family are iron-dependent, the 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetate 2,3-dioxygenase (MndD) from Arthrobacter globiformis CM-2 is dependent on manganese for catalytic activity. Recently, the endogenous iron ligands of one family member, the 2,3-dihydroxybiphenyl 1,2-dioxygenase (BphC), were identified crystallographically as two histidines and a glutamic acid [Sugiyama, K., et al. (1995) Proc. Jpn. Acad., Ser. B 71, 32-35; Han, et al. (1995) Science 270, 976-980; Senda, T., et al. (1996) J. Mol. Biol. 255, 735-752]. Though BphC and MndD have low overall sequence identity (23%), the three BphC metal ligands are all conserved in MndD (H155, H214, and E266). In order to determine whether these residues also act as ligands to manganese in MndD, site-directed mutants of each were constructed, purified, and analyzed for activity and metal content. Mutations H155A, H214A, and E266Q yielded purified enzymes with specific activities of <0.1% of that of the wild-type dioxygenase and bound 0.4, 1.8, and 33% of the wild-type level of manganese, respectively. The relatively high level of manganese [with a Mn(II) EPR signal distinctly different from that of the wild-type enzyme] observed for E266Q suggests that the glutamine may act as a weak ligand to the metal. Mutant E266D, which retains the potential metal binding capability of a carboxylate group, exhibited 12% of the wild-type activity in crude extracts, suggesting that Mn remains bound; however, this mutant protein was too unstable to be purified and analyzed for metal content. On the basis of the low activity and metal content of mutant proteins, we propose that the conserved residues H155, H214, and E266 ligate manganese in MndD. As is the case with the superoxide dismutases, the extradiol-cleaving catechol dioxygenases appear to utilize identical coordinating residues for their iron- and manganese-dependent enzymes.