Acetate kinase (ATP:phosphotransferase, EC 18.104.22.168) has been purified 294-fold from acid-producing cells of Clostridium acetobutylicum DSM 1731 to a specific activity of 1087 U mg-1 (ADP-forming direction). The dimeric enzyme consisted of subunits with a molecular mass of 43 kDa. The molecular mass of the native acetate kinase was in the range 87-94 kDa as judged by gel filtration and native gel electrophoresis. The enzyme showed high specificity for the substrates acetate and ATP, and maximal activity was obtained with Mn2+ as divalent cation. The presence of mercury compounds such as HgCl2 and p-hydroxymercuribenzoate resulted in an essential loss of activity. The apparent K(m) values of acetate, Mg-ATP, acetyl phosphate, and Mg-ADP were 73, 0.37, 0.58 and 0.71 mM. An activity-staining procedure for detection of acetate kinase in crude cell extracts after separation on native polyacrylamide gels was developed. A DNA fragment encoding 246 bp of the acetate kinase gene of C. acetobutylicum DSM 792 was cloned by a PCR-based approach. Northern blot analysis revealed transcription of the gene under acid- and solvent-producing conditions with no significant differences at the level of transcription.