Transketolase A was purified to apparent homogeneity from recombinant Escherichia coli K12 cells carrying the homologous cloned tktA gene on a pUC19-derived plasmid. These recombinant cells exhibited a transketolase activity in crude extracts of up to 9.7 U/mg compared to < or = 0.1 U/mg in wild-type cells. Transketolase A was purified from crude extracts of a recombinant strain by successive ammonium sulfate precipitations and two anion-exchange chromatography steps (Q-Sepharose FF, Fractogel EMD-DEAE column) and afforded an apparently homogeneous protein band on SDS/PAGE. The enzyme, both in its active and apoform, had a molecular mass of 145,000 Da (+/- 10,000 Da), judged by gel-filtration chromatography. Subunits of 73,000 Da (+/- 2000 Da) were determined on SDS/PAGE, thus, transketolase A most likely forms a homodimer. N-terminal amino acid sequencing of the protein verified the identity with the cloned gene tktA. The specific activity of the purified enzyme, determined at 30 degrees C with the substrates xylulose 5-phosphate (donor of C2 compound) and ribose 5-phosphate (acceptor) at an optimal pH (50 mM glycylglycine, pH 8.5), was 50.4 U/mg. Km values for the substrates xylulose 5-phosphate and ribose 5-phosphate were 160 microM and 1.4 mM, respectively. Km values for the other physiological substrates of transketolase A were 90 microM for erythrose 4-phosphate (best acceptor substrate), 2.1 mM for D,L-glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate, 1.1 mM for fructose 6-phosphate, and 4 mM for sedoheptulose 7-phosphate. Hydroxypyruvate served as alternative donor (Km = 18 mM). Unphosphorylated acceptor compounds were formaldehyde (Km = 31 mM), glycolaldehyde (14 mM), D,L-glyceraldehyde (10 mM) and D-erythrose (150 mM). The enzyme was competitively inhibited by D-arabinose 5-phosphate (K = 6 mM at a concentration of 2.5 mM D-arabinose 5-phosphate) or by the chelating agent EDTA. The inactive apoform of transketolase A was yielded by dialysis against buffer containing 10 mM EDTA, thus removing the cofactors thiamine diphosphate and divalent cations. The reconstitution of the apoenzyme proceded faster in the presence of manganese ions (Kd = 7 microM at 10 microM thiamine diphosphate) than with other divalent cations.