Endonuclease I of bacteriophage T7 is a DNA junction-resolving enzyme. We have previously used crystallography to demonstrate the binding of two manganese ions into the active site that is formed by three carboxylate (Glu 20, Asp 55 and Glu 65) and a lysine residue (Lys 67). Endonuclease I is active in the presence of magnesium, manganese, iron (II) and cobalt (II) ions, weakly active in the presence of nickel, copper (II) and zinc ions, and completely inactive in the presence of calcium ions. However, using calorimetry, we have observed the binding of two calcium ions to the free enzyme in a manner very similar to the binding of manganese ions. In the presence of iron (II) ions, we have obtained a cleavage of the continuous strands of a junction bound by endonuclease I, at sites close to (but not identical with) enzyme-induced hydrolysis. The results suggest that this arises from attack by locally generated hydroxyl radicals, arising from iron (II) ions bound into the active site. This therefore provides an indirect way of examining metal ion binding in the enzyme-junction complex. Ion binding in free protein (by calorimetry) and the enzyme-junction complex (iron-induced cleavage) have been studied in series of active-site mutants. Both confirm the importance of the three carboxylate ligands, and the lack of a requirement for Lys67 for the ion binding. Calorimetry points to particularly critical role of Asp55, as mutation completely abolishes all binding of both manganese and calcium ions.