There are quite a few ongoing biochemical investigations of nicotine degradation in different organisms. In this work, we identified and sequenced a gene (designated nicA) involved in nicotine degradation by Pseudomonas putida strain S16. The gene product, NicA, was heterologously expressed and characterized as a nicotine oxidoreductase catalyzing the initial steps of nicotine metabolism. Biochemical analyses using resting cells and the purified enzyme suggested that nicA encodes an oxidoreductase, which converts nicotine to 3-succinoylpyridine through pseudooxynicotine. Based on enzymatic reactions and direct evidence obtained using H218O labeling, the process may consist of enzyme-catalyzed dehydrogenation, followed by spontaneous hydrolysis and then repetition of the dehydrogenation and hydrolysis steps. Sequence comparisons revealed that the gene showed 40% similarity to genes encoding NADH dehydrogenase subunit I and cytochrome c oxidase subunit I in eukaryotes. Our findings demonstrate that the molecular mechanism for nicotine degradation in strain S16 involves the pyrrolidine pathway and is similar to the mechanism in mammals, in which pseudooxynicotine, the direct precursor of a potent tobacco-specific lung carcinogen, is produced.