A strain of Pseudomonas maltophilia (termed MB11L) which was capable of using cocaine as its sole carbon and energy source was isolated by selective enrichment. An inducible esterase catalyzing the hydrolysis of cocaine to ecgonine methyl ester and benzoic acid was identified and purified 22-fold. In the presence of the solubilizing agent cholate, cocaine esterase had a native Mr of 110,000 and was shown by sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis to be a monomer. In the absence of cholate, cocaine esterase had a native Mr of 410,000 and probably existed as a tetramer. The pH optimum of the enzyme was 8.0, and the Km values for cocaine, ethyl benzoate, and ethyl 2-hydroxybenzoate were 0.36, 1.89, and 1.75 mM, respectively. Inhibition studies indicated that the enzyme was a serine esterase, possibly possessing a cation-binding site similar to those of mammalian acetylcholinesterase and the atropine esterase of Pseudomonas putida PMBL-1. The cocaine esterase of P. maltophilia MB11L showed no activity with atropine, despite the structural similarity of cocaine and atropine.