Nitrous oxide reductase (N2OR) catalyses the final step of bacterial denitrification, the two-electron reduction of nitrous oxide (N2O) to dinitrogen (N2). N2OR contains two metal centers; a binuclear copper center, CuA, that serves to receive electrons from soluble donors, and a tetranuclear copper-sulfide center, CuZ, at the active site. Stopped flow experiments at low ionic strengths reveal rapid electron transfer (kobs = 150 s−1) between reduced horse heart (HH) cytochrome c and the CuA center in fully oxidized N2OR. When fully reduced N2OR was mixed with oxidized cytochrome c, a similar rate of electron transfer was recorded for the reverse reaction, followed by a much slower internal electron transfer from CuZ to CuA (kobs = 0.1–0.4 s−1). The internal electron transfer process is likely to represent the rate-determining step in the catalytic cycle. Remarkably, in the absence of cytochrome c, fully reduced N2OR is inert towards its substrate, even though sufficient electrons are stored to initiate a single turnover. However, in the presence of reduced cytochrome c and N2O, a single turnover occurs after a lag-phase. We propose that a conformational change in N2OR is induced by its specific interaction with cytochrome c that in turn either permits electron transfer between CuA and CuZ or controls the rate of N2O decomposition at the active site.