Maleylacetate reductase (EC 220.127.116.11) plays a major role in the degradation of chloroaromatic compounds by channelling maleylacetate and some chlorinated derivatives into the 3-oxoadipate pathway. Several substituted maleylacetates were prepared in situ by alkaline or enzymatic hydrolysis of dienelactones as the precursor. The conversion of these methyl-, chloro-, fluoro-, and bromo-substituted maleylacetates by malelacetate reductase from 3-chlorobenzoate-grown cells of Pseudomonas sp. strain B13 was studied. Two moles of NADH per mole of substrate was consumed for the conversion of maleylacetates which contain a halogen substituent in the 2 position. In contrast, only 1 mol of NADH was necessary to convert 1 mol of substrates without a halogen substituent in the 2 position. The conversion of 2-fluoro-, 2-chloro-, 2,3-dichloro-, 2,5-dichloro-, 2,3,5-trichloro-, 2-bromo-, 2,3-dibromo-, 2,5-dibromo-, 2-bromo-5-chloro-, 2-chloro-3-methyl-, and 2-chloro-5-methylmaleylacetate was accompanied by the elimination of halide from the 2 position and the temporary occurrence of the corresponding dehalogenated maleylacetate as an intermediate consuming the second mole equivalent of NADH. The properties of the halogen substituents influenced the affinity to the enzyme in the following manner. Km values increased with increasing van der Waals radii and with decreasing electronegativity of the halogen substituents (i.e., low steric hindrance and high electronegativity positively influenced the binding). The Km values obtained with 2-methyl-,3-methyl-, and 5-methylmaleylacetate showed that a methyl substituent negatively affected the affinity in the following order: 2 position >/ = 3 position >> 5 position. A reaction mechanism explaining the exclusive elimination of halogen substituents from the 2 position is proposed.