Abstract While amides were reported to be completely inert as substrates for all nitrilases reported to date, the nitrilase from Rhodococcus rhodochrousJ1, which catalyzes the hydrolytic cleavage of the C-N triple bond in nitrile to form acid and ammonium, was surprisingly found to catalyze hydrolysis of amide to acid and ammonium stoichiometrically. This nitrilase exhibited a K mof 2.94 mM for benzamide, similar to that for benzonitrile as the original substrate (2.10 mM), but the V maxfor benzamide was six orders of magnitude lower than that for benzonitrile. Benzamide inhibited the nitrilase reaction in a reversible, apparently competitive manner. A mutant nitrilase containing alanine or serine instead of Cys165, which is essential for nitrilase catalytic activity, showed no amidase activity. This observation demonstrated that Cys165 plays a crucial role in the hydrolysis of amides as well as nitriles. Together with some reports that certain nitrilases were previously noted to produce low amounts of amide as a by-product from nitrile, the above unexpected findings suggested the existence of a common tetrahedral intermediate in the nitrilase reaction involving nitrile or amide as a substrate.