DHDPS (dihydrodipicolinate synthase) catalyses the branch point in lysine biosynthesis in bacteria and plants and is feedback inhibited by lysine. DHDPS from the thermophilic bacterium Thermotoga maritima shows a high level of heat and chemical stability. When incubated at 90 degrees C or in 8 M urea, the enzyme showed little or no loss of activity, unlike the Escherichia coli enzyme. The active site is very similar to that of the E. coli enzyme, and at mesophilic temperatures the two enzymes have similar kinetic constants. Like other forms of the enzyme, T. maritima DHDPS is a tetramer in solution, with a sedimentation coefficient of 7.2 S and molar mass of 133 kDa. However, the residues involved in the interface between different subunits in the tetramer differ from those of E. coli and include two cysteine residues poised to form a disulfide bond. Thus the increased heat and chemical stability of the T. maritima DHDPS enzyme is, at least in part, explained by an increased number of inter-subunit contacts. Unlike the plant or E. coli enzyme, the thermophilic DHDPS enzyme is not inhibited by (S)-lysine, suggesting that feedback control of the lysine biosynthetic pathway evolved later in the bacterial lineage.