The aerobic respiratory chain of Escherichia coli can function with either of two different membrane-bound NADH dehydrogenases (NDH-1 and NDH-2) and with either of two ubiquinol oxidases (bd-type and bo-type). The amounts of each of these enzymes present in the E. coli membrane depend on growth conditions in general and particularly on the dissolved oxygen concentration. Previous in vitro studies have established that NDH-1 and NDH-2 differ in the extent to which they are coupled to the generation of an energy-conserving proton motive force. The same is true for the two ubiquinol oxidases. Hence, the bioenergetic efficiency of the aerobic respiratory chain must depend on the electron flux through each of the specific enzyme components which are being utilized. In this work, the specific rates of oxygen consumption for cells growing under glucose-limited conditions are reported for a series of isogenic strains in which one or more respiratory components are genetically eliminated. The results are compatible with the proton translocation values of the various components reported from in vitro measurements. The data show that (i) the bd-type oxidase is less efficient than is the bo-type oxidase, but the former is still a coupling site in the respiratory chain; and (ii) under the conditions employed, the wild-type strain uses both the NDH-1 and NDH-2 NADH dehydrogenases to a significant degree, but most of the electron flux is directed through the bo-type oxidase.