Holocarboxylase synthetases (HCSs) are key enzymes in biotin utilisation in both prokaryotes and eukaryotes. In a previous study, we demonstrated that, in plants, HCS activity is localised in cytosol, chloroplasts and mitochondria. We also described the cloning and sequencing of a full-length cDNA encoding an Arabidopsis thaliana HCS isoform with a putative organelle-transit peptide. In the study reported here, this cDNA was used to construct an overproducing Escherichia coli strain. The recombinant enzyme was isolated using an efficient three-step purification procedure. Polyclonal antibodies raised against pure HCS were produced to elucidate the subcellular localisation of this protein. Immunodetection carried out by Western blotting of isolated pea leaf subcellular compartments specifically revealed a single polypeptide that was ascribed to the chloroplast compartment. Immunocytochemistry of thin-cut sections from tobacco leaves, transformed by the complete coding sequence of A. thaliana HCS cDNA via Agrobacterium tumefaciens, confirmed that the enzyme encoded by this cDNA is the chloroplastic isoform. Moreover, physicochemical, biochemical and kinetic properties of the pure recombinant HCS were determined. The native recombinant enzyme is a 37-kDa monomer. In contrast to the major part of HCS activity measured in leaf extracts, the recombinant chloroplastic enzyme did not require addition of Mg2+ to be fully active, but was substantially inhibited by EDTA. This suggested that the chloroplastic HCS may contain a tightly-bound divalent cation required for enzyme activity. The recombinant enzyme was able to biotinylate efficiently apo-biotin carboxyl carrier protein (BCCP) from E. coli and apo-methylcrotonoyl-CoA carboxylase (MCCase) from A. thaliana. Apparent Km values for the enzyme substrates D-biotin, ATP and apo-MCCase were found to be 130 nM, 4.4 microM and 32 microM, respectively. Steady-state kinetic analyses of the HCS-catalysed reaction were investigated with respect to reaction mechanism and inhibition by AMP, one of the end-products of the enzyme-catalysed reaction. Substrate interaction and product inhibition patterns indicated that ATP and D-biotin bind sequentially, in an ordered manner, to the enzyme and that ATP or D-biotin and apo-BCCP bind in ping-pong fashion.