The sulfurylase domain of the mouse bifunctional enzyme ATP sulfurylase/adenosine 5'-phosphosulfate (APS) kinase contains HXXH and PP-loop motifs. To elucidate the functional importance of these motifs and of conserved arginines and histidines, chemical modification and site-directed mutagenesis studies were performed. Chemical modification of arginines and histidines with phenylglyoxal and diethyl pyrocarbonate, respectively, renders the enzyme inactive in sulfurylase, kinase, and overall assays. Data base searches and sequence comparison of bifunctional ATP sulfurylase/APS kinase and monofunctional ATP sulfurylases shows a limited number of highly conserved arginines and histidines within the sulfurylase domain. Of these conserved residues, His-425, His-428, and Arg-421 are present within or near the HXXH motif whereas His-506, Arg-510, and Arg-522 residues are present in and around the PP-loop. The functional role of these conserved residues was further studied by site-directed mutagenesis. In the HXXH motif, none of the alanine mutants (H425A, H428A, and R421A) had sulfurylase or overall activity, whereas they all exhibited normal kinase activity. A slight improvement in reverse sulfurylase activity (<10% residual activity) and complete restoration of forward sulfurylase was observed with R421K. Mutants designed to probe the PP-loop requirements included H506A, R510A, R522A, R522K, and D523A. Of these, R510A exhibited normal sulfurylase and kinase activity, R522A and R522K showed no sulfurylase activity, and H506A had normal sulfurylase activity but produced an effect on kinase activity (<10% residual activity). The single aspartate, D523A, which is part of the highly conserved GRD sequence of the PP-loop, affected both sulfurylase and kinase activity. This mutational analysis indicates that the HXXH motif plays a role only in the sulfurylase activity, whereas the PP-loop is involved in both sulfurylase and kinase activities. Residues specific for sulfurylase activity have also been distinguished from those involved in kinase activity.