Campylobacter jejuni is a human pathogen of worldwide significance. It is commensal in the gut of many birds and mammals, where hydrogen is a readily available electron donor. The bacterium possesses a single membrane-bound, periplasmic-facing NiFe uptake hydrogenase that depends on the acquisition of environmental nickel for activity. The periplasmic binding protein Cj1584 (NikZ) of the ATP binding cassette (ABC) transporter encoded by the cj1584c-cj1580c (nikZYXWV) operon in C. jejuni strain NCTC 11168 was found to be nickel-repressed and to bind free nickel ions with a submicromolar K(d) value, as measured by fluorescence spectroscopy. Unlike the Escherichia coli NikA protein, NikZ did not bind EDTA-chelated nickel and lacks key conserved residues implicated in metallophore interaction. A C. jejuni cj1584c null mutant strain showed an approximately 22-fold decrease in intracellular nickel content compared with the wild-type strain and a decreased rate of uptake of (63)NiCl(2). The inhibition of residual nickel uptake at higher nickel concentrations in this mutant by hexa-ammine cobalt (III) chloride or magnesium ions suggests that low-affinity uptake occurs partly through the CorA magnesium transporter. Hydrogenase activity was completely abolished in the cj1584c mutant after growth in unsupplemented media, but was fully restored after growth with 0.5 mM nickel chloride. Mutation of the putative metallochaperone gene slyD (cj0115) had no effect on either intracellular nickel accumulation or hydrogenase activity. Our data reveal a strict dependence of hydrogenase activity in C. jejuni on high-affinity nickel uptake through an ABC transporter that has distinct properties compared with the E. coli Nik system.