Vanillate and syringate are converted into protocatechuate (PCA) and 3-O-methylgallate (3MGA), respectively, by O-demethylases in Sphingomonas paucimobilis SYK-6. PCA is further degraded via the PCA 4,5-cleavage pathway, while 3MGA is degraded through multiple pathways in which PCA 4,5-dioxygenase (LigAB), 3MGA 3,4-dioxygenase (DesZ), and an unidentified 3MGA O-demethylase and gallate dioxygenase are participants. For this study, we isolated a 4.7-kb SmaI fragment that conferred on Escherichia coli the activity required for the conversion of vanillate to PCA. The nucleotide sequence of this fragment revealed an open reading frame of 1,413 bp (ligM), the deduced amino acid sequence of which showed 49% identity with that of the tetrahydrofolate (H4folate)-dependent syringate O-demethylase gene (desA). The metF and ligH genes, which are thought to be involved in H4folate-mediated C1 metabolism, were located just downstream of ligM. The crude LigM enzyme expressed in E. coli converted vanillate and 3MGA to PCA and gallate, respectively, with similar specific activities, and only in the presence of H4folate; however, syringate was not a substrate for LigM. The disruption of ligM led to significant growth retardation on both vanillate and syringate, indicating that ligM is involved in the catabolism of these substrates. The ability of the ligM mutant to transform vanillate was markedly decreased, and this mutant completely lost the 3MGA O-demethylase activity. A ligM desA double mutant completely lost the ability to transform vanillate, thus indicating that desA also contributes to vanillate degradation. All of these results indicate that ligM encodes vanillate/3MGA O-demethylase and plays an important role in the O demethylation of vanillate and 3MGA, respectively.