Microorganisms use different pathways for D-galacturonate catabolism. In the known microbial oxidative pathway, D-galacturonate is oxidized to D-galactarolactone, the lactone hydrolyzed to galactarate, which is further converted to 3-deoxy-2- keto-hexarate and α-ketoglutarate. We have shown recently that Agrobacterium tumefaciens strain C58 contains an uronate dehydrogenase (At Udh) that oxidizes D-galacturonic acid to D-galactarolactone. Here we report identification of a novel enzyme from the same A. tumefaciens strain, which we named Galactarolactone cycloisomerase (At Gci) (E.C. 5.5.1.-), for the direct conversion of the D-galactarolactone to 3-deoxy-2-ketohexarate. The At Gci enzyme is 378 amino acids long and belongs to the mandelate racemase subgroup in the enolase superfamily. At Gci was heterologously expressed in Escherichia coli, and the purified enzyme was found to exist as an octameric form. It is active both on D-galactarolactone and D-glucarolactone, but does not work on the corresponding linear hexaric acid forms. The details of the reaction mechanism were further studied by NMR and optical rotation demonstrating that the reaction product of At Gci from D-galactaro-1,4-lactone and D-glucaro- 1,4-lactone conversion is in both cases the L-threo form of 3-deoxy-2-keto-hexarate.