We isolated Pseudomonas paucimobilis SYK-6, which was able to degrade various dimeric lignin compounds (Y. Katayama, S. Nishikawa, M. Nakamura, K. Yano, M. Yamasaki, N. Morohoshi, and T. Haraguchi, Mokuzai Gakkaishi 33:77-79, 1987). This metabolic process is a distinct characteristic of this bacterium, which is equipped with an enzymatic modification system for various dimeric lignin compounds involved in the tricarboxylic acid cycle. Cleavage of the beta-aryl ether linkage is essential in this process, because this linkage is the most abundant (approximately 50%) in lignin. Here, we report the isolation and characterization of the beta-etherase gene, which contains an open reading frame of 843 bp and which we call ligE. This gene was expressed in Escherichia coli, and the enzyme had the same kinetic properties as the P. paucimobilis SYK-6 enzyme.