Arabidopsis thaliana contains a large number of genes encoding carboxylic acid-activating enzymes, including long-chain fatty acyl-CoA synthetase (LACS), 4-coumarate:CoA ligases (4CL), and proteins closely related to 4CLs with unknown activities. The function of these 4CL-like proteins was systematically explored by applying an extensive substrate screen, and it was uncovered that activation of fatty acids is the common feature of all active members of this protein family, thereby defining a new group of fatty acyl-CoA synthetase, which is distinct from the known LACS family. Significantly, four family members also displayed activity towards different biosynthetic precursors of jasmonic acid (JA), including 12-oxo-phytodienoic acid (OPDA), dinor-OPDA, 3-oxo-2(2'-[Z]-pentenyl)cyclopentane-1-octanoic acid (OPC-8), and OPC-6. Detailed analysis of in vitro properties uncovered significant differences in substrate specificity for individual enzymes, but only one protein (At1g20510) showed OPC-8:CoA ligase activity. Its in vivo function was analysed by transcript and jasmonate profiling of Arabidopsis insertion mutants for the gene. OPC-8:CoA ligase expression was activated in response to wounding or infection in the wild type but was undetectable in the mutants, which also exhibited OPC-8 accumulation and reduced levels of JA. In addition, the developmental, tissue- and cell-type specific expression pattern of the gene, and regulatory properties of its promoter were monitored by analysing promoter::GUS reporter lines. Collectively, the results demonstrate that OPC-8:CoA ligase catalyses an essential step in JA biosynthesis by initiating the beta-oxidative chain shortening of the carboxylic acid side chain of its precursors, and, in accordance with this function, the protein is localized in peroxisomes.