The members of the mechanistically diverse enolase superfamily catalyze different overall reactions by using a common catalytic strategy and structural scaffold. In the muconate lactonizing enzyme (MLE) subgroup of the superfamily, abstraction of a proton adjacent to a carboxylate group initiates reactions, including cycloisomerization (MLE), dehydration [o-succinylbenzoate synthase (OSBS)], and 1,1-proton transfer (catalyzed by an OSBS that also catalyzes a promiscuous N-acylamino acid racemase reaction). The realization that a member of the MLE subgroup could catalyze a 1,1-proton transfer reaction, albeit poorly, led to a search for other enzymes which might catalyze a 1,1-proton transfer as their physiological reaction. YcjG from Escherichia coli and YkfB from Bacillus subtilis, proteins of previously unknown function, were discovered to be L-Ala-D/L-Glu epimerases, although they also catalyze the epimerization of other dipeptides. The values of k(cat)/K(M) for L-Ala-D/L-Glu for both proteins are approximately 10(4) M(-1) s(-1). The genomic context and the substrate specificity of both YcjG and YkfB suggest roles in the metabolism of the murein peptide, of which L-Ala-D-Glu is a component. Homologues possessing L-Ala-D/L-Glu epimerase activity have been identified in at least two other organisms.