Short- and medium-chain acyl coenzyme A (acyl-CoA) synthetases catalyze the formation of acyl-CoA from an acyl substrate, ATP, and CoA. These enzymes catalyze mechanistically similar two-step reactions that proceed through an enzyme-bound acyl-AMP intermediate. Here we describe the characterization of a member of this enzyme family from the methane-producing archaeon Methanosarcina acetivorans. This enzyme, a medium-chain acyl-CoA synthetase designated MacsMa, utilizes 2-methylbutyrate as its preferred substrate for acyl-CoA synthesis but cannot utilize acetate and thus cannot catalyze the first step of acetoclastic methanogenesis in M. acetivorans. When propionate or other less favorable acyl substrates, such as butyrate, 2-methylpropionate, or 2-methylvalerate, were utilized, the acyl-CoA was not produced or was produced at reduced levels. Instead, acyl-AMP and PPi were released in the absence of CoA, whereas in the presence of CoA, the intermediate was broken down into AMP and the acyl substrate, which were released along with PPi. These results suggest that although acyl-CoA synthetases may have the ability to utilize a broad range of substrates for the acyl-adenylate-forming first step of the reaction, the intermediate may not be suitable for the thioester-forming second step. The MacsMa structure has revealed the putative acyl substrate- and CoA-binding pockets. Six residues proposed to form the acyl substrate-binding pocket, Lys256, Cys298, Gly351, Trp259, Trp237, and Trp254, were targeted for alteration. Characterization of the enzyme variants indicates that these six residues are critical in acyl substrate binding and catalysis, and even conservative alterations significantly reduced the catalytic ability of the enzyme.