We solubilized from radish membranes and purified to apparent homogeneity a monomeric protein (55.5 kDa) capable of catalyzing the two-step conversion of acetyl-CoA into 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl(HMG)-CoA. Unlike the situation described for other eukaryotes (yeast, animals), both enzyme activities needed for HMG-CoA synthesis (acetoacetyl-CoA thiolase, AACT and HMG-CoA synthase, HMGS) appear to be localized on a single polypeptide. Thus, the enzyme system is further referred to as AACT/HMGS. The reaction as catalyzed by purified AACT/HMGS is strongly stimulated in vitro in presence of FeII-chelates (namely EDTA) and of quinone cofactors with pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ) being by far the most effective one studied so far. Whereas the FeII stimulation is apparently due to a Vmax effect, PQQ increases the affinity of the enzyme system towards acetyl-CoA (1.9 microM vs. 5.9 microM, at 50 microM FeII, 100 microM EDTA, 20 microM PQQ). Stimulation by naphthoquinone (NQ) can be overcome in the presence of halogenated NQ-derivatives, while activation by PQQ remains unaffected, possibly indicating a much more specific-binding of the latter cofactor. Gel filtration experiments of enzyme after preincubation in presence of PQQ indicate that there is no covalent-binding of the quinone cofactor to the enzyme. As is also shown with partially purified enzyme from maize membranes, phenylhydrazine, known to react with PQQ as the prosthetic group of quinoproteins (see van der Meer et al. (1987) FEBS Lett. 221, 299-304), efficiently inhibits the reaction. The data lead us to suggest a reaction mechanism that involves radical formation by the redox couple FeII/PQQ, thereby possibly facilitating the energetically unfavorable Claisen condensation as catalyzed during the first partial (AACT) reaction.