The actinomycete Amycolatopsis sp. strain ATCC 39116 is capable of synthesizing large amounts of vanillin from ferulic acid, which is a natural cell wall component of higher plants. The desired intermediate vanillin is subject to undesired catabolism caused by the metabolic activity of a hitherto unknown vanillin dehydrogenase (VDH(ATCC 39116)). In order to prevent the oxidation of vanillin to vanillic acid and thereby to obtain higher yields and concentrations of vanillin, the responsible vanillin dehydrogenase in Amycolatopsis sp. ATCC 39116 was investigated for the first time by using data from our genome sequence analysis and further bioinformatic approaches. The vdh gene was heterologously expressed in Escherichia coli, and the encoded vanillin dehydrogenase was characterized in detail. VDH(ATCC 39116) was purified to apparent electrophoretic homogeneity and exhibited NAD(+)-dependent activity toward vanillin, coniferylaldehyde, cinnamaldehyde, and benzaldehyde. The enzyme showed its highest level of activity toward vanillin at pH 8.0 and at a temperature of 44°C. In a next step, a precise vdh deletion mutant of Amycolatopsis sp. ATCC 39116 was generated. The mutant lost its ability to grow on vanillin and did not show vanillin dehydrogenase activity. A 2.3-times-higher vanillin concentration and a substantially reduced amount of vanillic acid occurred with the Amycolatopsis sp. ATCC 39116 Δvdh::Km(r) mutant when ferulic acid was provided for biotransformation in a cultivation experiment on a 2-liter-bioreactor scale. Based on these results and taking further metabolic engineering into account, the Amycolatopsis sp. ATCC 39116 Δvdh::Km(r) mutant represents an optimized and industrially applicable platform for the biotechnological production of natural vanillin.