Mercuric reductase activity determined by the Thiobacillus ferrooxidans merA gene (cloned and expressed constitutively in Escherichia coli) was measured by volatilization of 203Hg2+. (The absence of a merR regulatory gene in the cloned Thiobacillus mer determinant provides a basis for the constitutive synthesis of this system). In the absence of the Thiobacillus merC transport gene, the mercury volatilization activity was cryptic and was not seen with whole cells but only with sonication-disrupted cells. The Thiobacillus merC transport function was compared with transport via the merT-merP system of plasmid pDU1358. Both systems, cloned and expressed in E. coli, governed enhanced uptake of 203Hg2+ in a temperature- and concentration-dependent fashion. Uptake via MerT-MerP was greater and conferred greater hypersensitivity to Hg2+ than did uptake with MerC. Mercury uptake was inhibited by N-ethylmaleimide but not by EDTA. Ag+ salts inhibited mercury uptake by the MerT-MerP system but did not inhibit uptake via MerC. Radioactive mercury accumulated by the MerT-MerP and by the MerC systems was exchangeable with nonradioactive Hg2+.