Bacterial MerR proteins are dimeric DNA-binding proteins that mediate the Hg(II)-dependent induction of mercury resistance operons. Site-directed mutagenesis of the Bacillus sp. RC607 MerR protein reveals that three of four Cys residues per monomer are required for Hg(II) binding at the single high-affinity binding site. Inactive mutant homodimers can exchange subunits to form heterodimers active for Hg(II) binding. Studies of a heterodimer retaining only three of eight cysteine residues per dimer reveal that Cys79 in one subunit and Cys114 and Cys123 in the second subunit are necessary and sufficient for high-affinity Hg(II) binding in an asymmetric, subunit bridging coordination complex.