(4S)-Limonene synthase, a monoterpene cyclase isolated from the secretory cells of the glandular trichomes of Mentha x piperita (peppermint), catalyzes the cyclization of geranyl pyrophosphate to (4S)-limonene, a key intermediate in the biosynthesis of p-menthane monoterpenes in Mentha species. The enzyme synthesizes principally (-)-(4S)-limonene (greater than 94% of the total products), plus several other monoterpene olefins. The general properties of (4S)-limonene synthase resemble those of other monoterpene cyclases. The enzyme shows a pH optimum near 6.7, an isoelectric point of 4.35, and requires a divalent metal ion for catalysis, either Mg2+ or Mn2+, with Mn2+ preferred. The Km value measured for geranyl pyrophosphate was 1.8 microM. The activity of (4S)-limonene synthase was inhibited by sodium phosphate, sodium pyrophosphate, and reagents directed against the amino acids cysteine, methionine, and histidine. In the presence of Mn2+, geranyl pyrophosphate protected against cysteine-directed inhibition, suggesting that at least one cysteine residue is located at or near the active site. Experiments with alternate substrates and substrate analogs confirmed many elements of the proposed reaction mechanism, including the binding of geranyl pyrophosphate in the form of a complex with the divalent metal ion, the preliminary isomerization of geranyl pyrophosphate to linalyl pyrophosphate (a bound intermediate capable of cyclization), and the participation of a series of carbocation:pyrophosphate anion pairs in the reaction sequence.