Beta-D-xylosidases are hemilcellulases that hydrolyze short xylooligosaccharides into xylose units. Here, we describe the characterization and kinetic analysis of a family 43 beta-xylosidase from Geobacillus stearothermophilus T-6 (XynB3). Enzymes in this family use an inverting single-displacement mechanism with two conserved carboxylic acids, a general acid, and a general base. XynB3 was most active at 65 degrees C and pH 6.5, with clear preference to xylose-based substrates. Products analysis indicated that XynB3 is an exoglycosidase that cleaves single xylose units from the nonreducing end of xylooligomers. On the basis of sequence homology, amino acids Asp15 and Glu187 were suggested to act as the general-base and general-acid catalytic residues, respectively. Kinetic analysis with substrates bearing different leaving groups showed that, for the wild-type enzyme, the k(cat) and k(cat)/K(m) values were only marginally affected by the leaving-group reactivity, whereas for the E187G mutant, both values exhibited significantly greater dependency on the pK(a) of the leaving group. The pH-dependence activity profile of the putative general-acid mutant (E187G) revealed that the protonated catalytic residue was removed. Addition of the exogenous nucleophile azide did not affect the activities of the wild type or the E187G mutant but rescued the activity of the D15G mutant. On the basis of thin-layer chromatography and (1)H NMR analyses, xylose and not xylose azide was the only product of the accelerated reaction, suggesting that the azide ion does not attack the anomeric carbon directly but presumably activates a water molecule. Together, these results confirm the suggested catalytic role of Glu187 and Asp15 in XynB3 and provide the first unequivocal evidence regarding the exact roles of the catalytic residues in an inverting GH43 glycosidase.