Levels of the five enzymes involved in the fermentation of 1,2-ethanediol and 1,2-propanediol in the strictly anaerobic bacterium, Clostridium glycolicum, were investigated. All enzymes with the exception of the first enzyme in the pathway, diol dehydratase, were found to be constitutive, stable to exposure to oxygen, and present in the cytosol. Diol dehydratase was found to be extremely oxygen sensitive and strongly associated with the cell membrane. Treatment with ionic and nonionic detergents, butanol, phospholipase A2, or osmotic shock procedures failed to solubilize any diol dehydratase activity. Limited proteolysis using subtilisin released small amounts of activity. Diol dehydratase was found to be specific for 1,2-ethanediol and 1,2-propanediol and required the addition of a reducing agent for maximal activity. The enzyme was strongly inhibited by low concentrations of EDTA, ethylene glycol bis(beta-aminoethyl ether)-N,N,N',N'-tetraacetic acid, o-phenanthroline, hydroxylamine, hydroxyurea, and sulfhydryl reagents. Addition of adenosylcobalamin or high levels of intrinsic factor did not affect the reaction rate. Irradiation with light also did not inhibit the enzyme activity. These results suggest that the catalytic mechanism of diol dehydratase from C. glycolicum does not involve a cobamide coenzyme.