Early investigation of the electron paramagnetic resonance spectra of bis-histidine-coordinated membrane-bound ferriheme proteins led to the description of a spectral signal that had only one resolved feature. These became known as "highly anisotropic low-spin" or "large g(max)" ferriheme centers. Extensive work with small-molecule model heme complexes showed that this spectroscopic signature occurs in bis-imidazole ferrihemes in which the planes of the imidazole ligands are nearly perpendicular, deltaphi = 57-90 degrees. In the last decade protein crystallographic studies have revealed the atomic structures of a number of examples of bis-histidine heme proteins. A frequent characteristic of these large g(max) ferrihemes in membrane-bound proteins is the occurrence of the heme within a four-helix bundle with a left-handed twist. The histidine ligands occur at the same level on two diametrically opposed helices of the bundle. These ligands have the same side-chain conformation and ligate heme iron on the bundle axis, resulting in a quasi-twofold symmetric structure. The two non-ligand-bearing helices also obey this symmetry, and have a conserved small residue, usually glycine, where the edge of the heme ring makes contact with the helix backbones. In many cases this small residue is preceded by a threonine or serine residue whose side-chain hydroxyl oxygen acts as a hydrogen-bond acceptor from the N(delta1) atom of the heme-ligating histidine. The deltaphi angle is thus determined by the common histidine side-chain conformation and the crossing angle of the ligand-bearing helices, in some cases constrained by hydrogen bonds to the serine/threonine residues on the non-ligand-bearing helices.