All organisms utilize ferrochelatase (protoheme ferrolyase, EC 126.96.36.199) to catalyze the terminal step of the heme biosynthetic pathway, which involves the insertion of ferrous ion into protoporphyrin IX. Kinetic methods and Mössbauer spectroscopy have been used in an effort to characterize the ferrous ion-binding active site of recombinant murine ferrochelatase. The kinetic studies indicate that dithiothreitol, a reducing agent commonly used in ferrochelatase activity assays, interferes with the enzymatic production of heme. Ferrochelatase specific activity values determined under strictly anaerobic conditions are much greater than those obtained for the same enzyme under aerobic conditions and in the presence of dithiothreitol. Mössbauer spectroscopy conclusively demonstrates that, under the commonly used assay conditions, dithiothreitol chelates ferrous ion and hence competes with the enzyme for binding the ferrous substrate. Mössbauer spectroscopy of ferrous ion incubated with ferrochelatase in the absence of dithiothreitol shows a somewhat broad quadrupole doublet. Spectral analysis indicates that when 0.1 mM Fe(II) is added to 1.75 mM ferrochelatase, the overwhelming majority of the added ferrous ion is bound to the protein. The spectroscopic parameters for this bound species are δ = 1.36 ± 0.03 mm/s and ΔEQ = 3.04 ± 0.06 mm/s, distinct from the larger ΔEQ of a control sample of Fe(II) in buffer only. The parameters for the bound species are consistent with an active site composed of nitrogenous/ oxygenous ligands and inconsistent with the presence of sulfur ligands. This finding is in accord with the absence of conserved cysteines among the known ferrochelatase sequences. The implications these results have with regard to the mechanism of ferrochelatase activity are discussed.