A strain of Alcaligenes faecalis secretes an extracellular D(-)-3-hydroxybutyrate oligomer hydrolase, in addition to poly(3-hydroxybutyrate) depolymerase, when it is grown in a medium containing poly(3-hydroxybutyrate) as the sole carbon source. The oligomer hydrolase (EC 220.127.116.11), which has been purified to electrophoretic homogeneity, has a molecular weight of 68 000, as estimated by Sephadex G-100 gel filtration, and of 74 000, by polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis in the presence of sodium dodecyl sulfate. The isoelectric point of the enzyme is approx. 6.0 and the pH optimum for the enzyme reaction is 8.5. The purified oligomer hydrolase has high affinity for oligomeric esters (apparent Km for the D(-)-3-hydroxybutyrate dimer = 32.8 microM; for the dodecamer = 1.3 microM), but does not attack poly(3-hydroxybutyrate) (average molecular weight, 32 500) at all. Analysis of hydrolysates of the oligomeric esters suggests that the enzyme hydrolyzes these substrates from the carboxyl terminus, releasing D(-)-3-hydroxybutyrate units one by one.