Extracellular alginate lyase was purified from the culture supernatant of Corynebacterium sp. isolated from the sewage of a sea tangle processing factory in order to elucidate the structure-function relationship of alginate lyase. The electrophoretically homogeneous enzyme was shown to have a molecular mass of 27 kDa by sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS)-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (PAGE) and by gel filtration, with an isoelectric point of 7.3. The molecular mass from amino acid analysis was 28.644 kDa. The optimal pH and temperature for the enzyme reaction were around 7.0 and 55 degrees C, respectively. Metal compounds such as MnCl2 and NiCl2 increased the enzyme activity. The enzyme was identified as the endolytic poly(alpha-L-guluronate)lyase, which was active on poly(alpha-L-1,4-guluronate) and caused a rapid decrease in the viscosity of alginate solution. Measurement of the far-UV circular dichroic spectrum of the enzyme molecule gave a spectrum with a deep trough at 215 nm accompanied by a shallow one at around 237 nm, and with a high peak at 197 nm and a much lower one at 230 nm. This spectrum was most likely to be that of the beta-form of the enzyme molecule and resembled poly(beta-D-mannuronate)lyase from Turbo cornutus (wreath shell) and poly(alpha-L-guluronate)lyase from Vibrio sp. (marine bacterium). The near-UV circular dichroic spectrum was characteristic for aromatic amino acid residues. In the presence of 6 M urea, these spectra changed drastically in the near-UV and a little in the far-UV with the disappearance of the enzyme activity. Removal of the denaturant in the enzyme solution by dialysis restored both the activity and inherent circular dichroic spectra. The beta-sheets observed in alginate lyases as the major ordered structure seem to be a common conformation for the lyases.