The vanillin dehydrogenase gene (ligV), which conferred the ability to transform vanillin into vanillate on Escherichia coli, was isolated from Sphingomonas paucimobilis SYK-6. The ligV gene consists of a 1,440-bp open reading frame encoding a polypeptide with a molecular mass of 50,301 Da. The deduced amino acid sequence of ligV showed about 50% identity with the known vanillin dehydrogenases of Pseudomonas vanillin degraders. The gene product of ligV (LigV) produced in E. coli preferred NAD+ to NADP+ and exhibited a broad substrate preference, including vanillin, benzaldehyde, protocatechualdehyde, m-anisaldehyde, and p-hydroxybenzaldehyde, but the activity toward syringaldehyde was less than 5% of that toward vanillin. Insertional inactivation of ligV in SYK-6 indicated that ligV is essential for normal growth on vanillin. On the other hand, growth on syringaldehyde was only slightly affected by ligV disruption, indicating the presence of a syringaldehyde dehydrogenase gene or genes in SYK-6.