Deoxyadenosine undergoes spontaneous deamination to deoxyinosine in DNA. Based on amino acids sequence homology, putative homologs of endonuclease V were identified in several organisms including archaebacteria, eubacteria as well as eukaryotes. The translated amino acid sequence of the Archaeoglobus fulgidus nfi gene shows 39% identity and 55% similarity to the E. coli nfi gene. A. fulgidus endonuclease V was cloned and expressed in E. coli as a C-terminal hexa-histidine fusion protein. The C-terminal fusion protein was purified to apparent homogeneity by a combination of Ni(++) affinity and MonoS cation exchange liquid chromatography. The purified C-terminal fusion protein has a molecular weight of about 25kDa and showed endonuclease activity towards DNA containing deoxyinosine. A. fulgidus endonuclease V has an absolute requirement for Mg(2+) and an optimum reaction temperature at 85 degrees C. However, in contrast to E. coli endonuclease V, which has a wide substrate spectrum, endonuclease V from A. fulgidus recognized only deoxyinosine. These data suggest that the deoxyinosine cleavage activity is a primordial activity of endonuclease V and that multiple enzymatic activities of E. coli endonuclease V were acquired later during evolution.