We attempted to purify ATP citrate lyase (ACL) from Hydrogenobacter thermophilus by following the citrate-, ATP- and CoA-dependent formation of an acyl-CoA species that was detected as hydroxamate. However, citryl-CoA rather than acetyl-CoA was found, indicating that the purified enzyme was a novel citryl-CoA synthetase (CCS) rather than ACL. Because the reaction catalysed by CCS corresponds to the first half of that mediated by ACL, CCS may be responsible for citrate cleavage in H. thermophilus. Thus, a novel citrate cleavage pathway, which does not involve ACL, appears to exist in this organism. Citryl-CoA synthetase is composed of two different polypeptides: a large beta subunit of 46 kDa and a small alpha subunit of 36 kDa. The corresponding genes were cloned and sequenced. The deduced amino acid sequences of the two subunits of CCS display significant similarity to those of succinyl-CoA synthetase (SCS) in the database. As a comparison, SCS was also purified from H. thermophilus and the corresponding genes were cloned and sequenced. Citryl-CoA synthetase and SCS were homologous, but showed different substrate specificity. The deduced amino acid sequences of the CCS subunits show similarity to part of the ACL sequence. The evolutionary relationship between CCS, SCS and ACL is discussed.