AquI DNA methyltransferase, M.AquI, catalyses the transfer of a methyl group from S-adenosyl-L-methionine to the C5 position of the outermost deoxycytidine base in the DNA sequence 5'CYCGRG3'. M.AquI is encoded by two overlapping ORFs (termed a and P) instead of the single ORF that is customary for Class II methyltransferase genes. The structural organization of the M.AquI protein sequence is quite similar to that of other bacteria] C5-DNA methyltransferases. Ten conserved motifs are also present in the correct order, but only on two polypeptides. We separately subcloned the genes that encode the alpha and beta subunits of M.AquI into expression vectors. The overexpressed His-fusion alpha and beta subunits of the enzyme were purified to homogeneity in a single step by Nickel-chelate affinity chromatography. The purified recombinant proteins were assayed for biological activity by an in vitro DNA tritium transfer assay. The alpha and beta subunits of M.AquI alone have no DNA methyltransferase activity, but when both subunits are included in the assay, an active enzyme that catalyses the transfer of the methyl group from S-adenosyl-L-methionine to DNA is reconstituted. We also showed that the beta subunit alone contains all of the information that is required to generate recognition of specific DNA duplexes in the absence of the alpha subunit.