Synechococcus sp. strain RF-1 exhibits a circadian rhythm of N2 fixation when cells are grown under a light-dark cycle, with nitrogenase activity observed only during the dark period. This dark-dependent activity correlated with nif gene transcription in strain RF-1. By using antibodies against dinitrogenase reductase (the Fe protein of the nitrogenase complex), it was found that there was a distinct shift in the mobility of this protein on sodium dodecyl sulfate gels during the light-dark cycle. The Fe protein was present only when cells were incubated in the dark. Upon illumination, there was a conversion of all Fe protein to a modified form, after which it rapidly disappeared from extracts. These studies indicated that all nitrogenase activity present during the dark cycle resulted from de novo synthesis of nitrogenase. Upon entering the light phase, cells appeared to quickly degrade the modified form of Fe protein, perhaps as a result of activating or inducing a protease. By contrast, transcription of the rbcL gene, which encodes the catalytic subunit of the key enzyme of CO2 fixation (a light-dependent process), was enhanced in the light.