3-deoxy-D-manno-octulosonate 8-phosphate synthase (KDO8PS) catalyzes the reaction between phosphoenol pyruvate and D-arabinose 5-phosphate to generate KDO8P. This reaction is part of the biosynthetic pathway to 3-deoxy-D-manno-octulosonate, a component of the lipopolysaccharide of the Gram-negative bacterial cell wall. Two distinct groups of KDO8PSs exist, differing by the absolute requirement of a divalent metal ion. In this study Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans KDO8PS has been expressed and purified and shown to require a divalent metal ion, with Mn2+, Co2+ and Cd2+ (in decreasing order) being able to restore activity to metal-free enzyme. Cd2+ significantly enhanced the stability of the enzyme, raising the Tm by 14 degrees C. D-glucose 6-phosphate and D-erythrose 4-phosphate were not substrates for A. ferrooxidans KDO8PS, whereas 2-deoxy-D-ribose 5-phosphate was a poor substrate and there was negligible activity with D-ribose 5-phosphate. The 243AspGlyPro245 motif is absolutely conserved in the metal-independent group of synthases, but the Gly and Pro sites are variable in the metal-dependent enzymes. Substitution of the putative metal-binding Asp243 to Ala in A. ferrooxidans KDO8PS gave inactive enzyme, whereas substitutions Asp243Glu or Pro245Ala produced active enzymes with altered metal-dependency profiles. Prior studies indicated that exchange of a metal-binding Cys for Asn converts metal-dependent KDO8P synthase into a metal-independent form. Unexpectedly, this mutation in A. ferrooxidans KDO8P synthase (Cys21Asn) gave inactive enzyme. This finding, together with modest activity towards 2-deoxy-D-ribose 5-phosphate suggests similarities between the A. ferrooxidans KDO8PS and the related metal-dependent 3-deoxy-D-arabino-heptulosonate phosphate synthase, and highlights the importance of the AspGlyPro loop in positioning the substrate for effective catalysis in all KDO8P synthases.