The enzyme 2-phosphoglycolate phosphatase from Escherichia coli, encoded by the gph gene, was purified and characterized. The enzyme was highly specific for 2-phosphoglycolate and showed good catalytic efficiency (k(cat)/K(m)), which enabled the conversion of this substrate even at low intracellular concentrations. A comparison of the structural and functional features of this enzyme with those of 2-phosphoglycolate phosphatases of different origins showed a high similarity of the sequences, implying the use of the same catalytic mechanism. Western blot analysis revealed constitutive expression of the gph gene, regardless of the carbon source used, growth stage, or oxidative stress conditions. We showed that this housekeeping enzyme is involved in the dissimilation of the intracellular 2-phosphoglycolate formed in the DNA repair of 3'-phosphoglycolate ends. DNA strand breaks of this kind are caused by agents such as the radiomimetic compound bleomycin. The differential response between a 2-phosphoglycolate phosphatase-deficient mutant and its parental strain after treatment with bleomycin allowed us to connect the intracellular formation of 2-phosphoglycolate with the production of glycolate, which is subsequently incorporated into general metabolism. We thus provide evidence for a salvage function of 2-phosphoglycolate phosphatase in the metabolism of a two-carbon compound generated by the cellular DNA repair machinery.