Oxidized and reduced forms of high-potential iron-sulfur protein (HiPIP) from the purple non-sulfur photosynthetic bacterium Rhodoferux fermentans have been characterized using 1H-NMR spectroscopy. Pairwise and sequence-specific assignments of hyperfine-shifted 1H-NMR signals to protons of cysteine residues bound to the [4Fe-4S]3+/2+ cluster have been performed using one-dimensional NOE and exchange spectroscopy experiments. 1H-NMR hyperfine shifts and relaxation rates of cluster-bound Cys β-CH2 protons indicate that in the [4Fe-4S]3+ cluster one iron ion can be formally described as Fe(III), while electron density corresponding to one electron is unevenly delocalized onto the remaining three iron ions. This delocalization is effected by means of two different electronic distributions interconverting rapidly on the NMR time scale. The mechanism of paramagnetic proton relaxation, studied by analyzing longitudinal relaxation rates of Cys β-CH2 protons in HiPIPs from six different sources as a function of the Fe-S-Cβ-Cα dihedral angle, indicate that the major contribution is due to a dipolar metal-centered mechanism, with a non-negligeable contribution from a ligand-centered dipolar mechanism which involves the 3p orbital of the Cys sulfur atom. A semi-quantitative tool for extracting structural information from relaxation time measurements is proposed.