1. A strain of the fungus Fusarium solani able to use benzonitrile as sole source of carbon and nitrogen was isolated by elective culture. 2. Respiration studies indicate that the nitrile, after degradation to benzoate, is catabolized via catechol or alternatively via p-hydroxybenzoate and 3,4-dihydroxybenzoate. 3. Cell-free extracts of benzonitrile-grown cells contain an enzyme mediating the conversion of benzonitrile into benzoate and ammonia. 4. The nitrilase enzyme was purified by DEAE-cellulose chromatography, (NH4)2SO4 precipitation and gel filtration on Sephadex G-200. The homogeneity of the purified enzyme preparation was confirmed by sodium dodecyl sulphate/polyacrylamide-gel electrophoresis and isoelectric focusing on polyacrylamide gel. 5. The enzyme showed a broad pH optimum between pH7.8 and 9.1 and a Km with benzonitrile as substrate of 0.039mm. The activation energy of the reaction deduced from an Arrhenius plot was 48.4kJ/mol. 6. The enzyme was susceptible to inhibition by thiol-specific reagents and certain heavy metal ions. 7. Gel filtration gave a value of 620000 for the molecular weight of the intact enzyme. Sodium dodecyl sulphate/polyacrylamide-gel electrophoresis demonstrated that the enzyme was composed of eight subunits of mol.wt. 76000. 8. Rates of enzymic attack on various substrates indicated that the nitrilase has a fairly broad specificity and that the fungus probably plays an important role in the biodegradation of certain nitrilic herbicides in the environment.

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