X-ray structures have been determined for five mutant reaction centres from Rhodobacter sphaeroides, at resolutions varying between 3.4 Å and 2.3 Å. The aim was to examine the effects of mutagenesis of polar residues in the binding pocket of the reaction centre carotenoid. The number of water molecules identified in each structure depended on the resolution and completeness of the data. In a 2.3 Å structure for a WM115F/FM197R mutant reaction centre, two water molecules partially filled the cavity that was created when the tryptophan residue was replaced by a less bulky phenylalanine. Structures obtained for four reaction centres with mutations of polar residues in the carotenoid binding pocket failed to show any significant change in the structure of the reaction centre carotenoid. Low resolution data for a YM210W mutant reaction centre showed that the overall structure of this complex is well conserved. This finding is discussed in light of the intriguing spectroscopic properties of the YM210W mutant reaction centre, and an alternative pathway for transmembrane electron transfer identified in this mutant.