The versatile thiol mercaptosuccinate has a wide range of applications, e.g. in quantum dot research or in bioimaging. Its metabolism is investigated in Variovorax paradoxus strain B4, which can utilize this compound as the sole source of carbon and sulfur. Proteomic studies of strain B4 resulted in the identification of a putative mercaptosuccinate dioxygenase, a cysteine dioxygenase homologue, possibly representing the key enzyme in the degradation of mercaptosuccinate. Therefore, the putative mercaptosuccinate dioxygenase was heterologously expressed, purified, and characterized in this study. The results clearly demonstrated that the enzyme utilizes mercaptosuccinate with concomitant consumption of oxygen. Thus, the enzyme is designated as mercaptosuccinate dioxygenase. Succinate and sulfite were verified as the final reaction products. The enzyme showed an apparent Km of 0.4 mM, and a specific activity (Vmax) of 20.0 μmol min(-1) mg(-1) corresponding to a kcat of 7.7 s(-1). Furthermore, the enzyme was highly specific for mercaptosuccinate, no activity was observed with cysteine, dithiothreitol, 2-mercaptoethanol, and 3-mercaptopropionate. These structurally related thiols did not have an inhibitory effect either. Fe(II) could clearly be identified as metal cofactor of the mercaptosuccinate dioxygenase with a content of 0.6 mol of Fe(II)/mol of enzyme. The recently proposed hypothesis for the degradation pathway of mercaptosuccinate based on proteome analyses could be strengthened in the present study. (i) Mercaptosuccinate is first converted to sulfinosuccinate by this mercaptosuccinate dioxygenase; (ii) sulfinosuccinate is spontaneously desulfinated to succinate and sulfite; and (iii) whereas succinate enters the central metabolism, sulfite is detoxified by the previously identified putative molybdopterin oxidoreductase.