An assay based on the consumption of nitrilotriacetate (NTA) was developed to measure the activity of NTA monooxygenase (NTA-Mo) in cell extracts of "Chelatobacter" strain ATCC 29600 and to purify a functional, NTA-hydroxylating enzyme complex. The complex consisted of two components that easily dissociated during purification and upon dilution. Both components were purified to more than 95% homogeneity, and it was possible to reconstitute the functional, NTA-hydroxylating enzyme complex from pure component A (cA) and component B (cB). cB exhibited NTA-stimulated NADH oxidation but was unable to hydroxylate NTA. It had a native molecular mass of 88 kDa and contained flavin mononucleotide (FMN). cA had a native molecular mass of 99 kDa. No catalytic activity has yet been shown for cA alone. Under unfavorable conditions, NADH oxidation was partly or completely uncoupled from hydroxylation, resulting in the formation of H2O2. Optimum hydroxylating activity was found to be dependent on the molar ratio of the two components, the absolute concentration of the enzyme complex, and the presence of FMN. Uncoupling of the reaction was favored in the presence of high salt concentrations and in the presence of flavin adenine dinucleotide. The NTA-Mo complex was sensitive to sulfhydryl reagents, but inhibition was reversible by addition of excess dithiothreitol. The Km values for Mg(2+)-NTA, FMN, and NADH were determined as 0.5 mM, 1.3 microM, and 0.35 mM, respectively. Of 26 tested compounds, NTA was the only substrate for NTA-Mo.