A new enzyme, S-adenosyl-l-methionine:flavonoid 4'-O-methyltransferase (EC 2.1.1.-) (F 4'-OMT), has been purified 1 399-fold from the tissues of carnation (Dianthus caryophyllus L). The enzyme, with a molecular mass of 43-45 kDa and a pI of 4.15, specifically methylates the hydroxy substituent in 4'-position of the flavones, flavanones and isoflavones in the presence of S-adenosyl-l-methionine. A high affinity for the flavone kaempferol was observed (Km = 1.7 micro m; Vmax = 95.2 micro mol.min-1.mg-1), while other 4'-hydroxylated flavonoids proved likewise to be suitable substrates. Enzyme activity had no apparent Mg++ requirement but was inhibited by SH-group reagents. The optimum pH value for F 4'-OMT activity was found to be around neutrality. Kinetic analysis of the enzyme bi-substrate reaction indicates a Ping-Pong mechanism and excludes the formation of a ternary complex. The F 4'-OMT activity was increased, in both in vitro and in vivo carnation tissues, by the inoculation with Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. dianthi. The enzyme did not display activity towards hydroxycinnamic acid derivatives, some of which are involved, as methylated monolignols, in lignin biosynthesis; the role of this enzyme could be therefore mainly defensive, rather than structural, although its precise function still needs to be ascertained.