An enantiomer-selective amidase active on several 2-aryl and 2-aryloxy propionamides was identified and purified from Brevibacterium sp. strain R312. Oligonucleotide probes were designed from limited peptide sequence information and were used to clone the corresponding gene, named amdA. Highly significant homologies were found at the amino acid level between the deduced sequence of the enantiomer-selective amidase and the sequences of known amidases such as indoleacetamide hydrolases from Pseudomonas syringae and Agrobacterium tumefaciens and acetamidase from Aspergillus nidulans. Moreover, amdA is found in the same orientation and only 73 bp upstream from the gene coding for nitrile hydratase, strongly suggesting that both genes are part of the same operon. Our results also showed that Rhodococcus sp. strain N-774 and Brevibacterium sp. strain R312 are probably identical, or at least very similar, microorganisms. The characterized amidase is an apparent homodimer of Mr 2 x 54,671 which exhibited under our conditions a specific activity of about 13 to 17 mumol of 2-(4-hydroxyphenoxy)propionic R acid formed per min per mg of enzyme from the racemic amide. Large amounts of an active recombinant enzyme could be produced in Escherichia coli at 30 degrees C under the control of an E. coli promoter and ribosome-binding site.