Two distinct forms of acetate kinase were purified to homogeneity from a sulfate-reducing bacterium Desulfovibrio vulgaris Miyazaki F. The enzymes were separated from the soluble fraction of the cells on anion exchange columns. One acetate kinase (AK-I) was a homodimer (alpha(S)(2)) and the other (AK-II) was a heterodimer (alpha(S)alpha(L)). On SDS-PAGE, alpha(L) and alpha(S) subunits migrated as bands of 49.3 and 47.8 kDa, respectively, but they had an identical N-terminal amino acid sequence. A rapid HPLC method was developed to directly measure ADP and ATP in assay mixtures. Initial velocity data for AK-I and AK-II were collected by this method and analyzed based on a random sequential mechanism, assuming rapid equilibrium for the substrate binding steps. All kinetic parameters for both the forward acetyl phosphate formation and the reverse ATP formation catalyzed by AK-I and AK-II were successfully determined. The two enzymes showed similar kinetic properties in Mg(2+) requirement, pH-dependence and magnitude of kinetic parameters. These results suggest that two forms of acetate kinase are produced to finely regulate the enzyme function by post-translational modifications of a primary gene product in Desulfovibrio vulgaris.