We have purified an endo-exonuclease from the fruiting body of the basidiomycete fungus Armillaria mellea by using an ethanol fractionation step, followed by two rounds of column chromatography. The enzyme had an apparent molecular mass of 17500 Da and was shown to exist as a monomer by gel-filtration analysis. The nuclease was active on both double-stranded and single-stranded DNA but not on RNA. It was optimally active at pH8.5 and also exhibited a significant degree of thermostability. Three bivalent metal ions, Mg2+, Co2+ and Mn2+, acted as cofactors in the catalysis. It was also inhibited by high salt concentrations: activity was completely abolished at 150 mM NaCl. The nuclease possessed both endonuclease activity on supercoiled DNA and a 3'-5' (but not a 5'-3') exonuclease activity. It generated 5'-phosphomonoesters on its products that, after a prolonged incubation, were hydrolysed to a mixture of free mononucleotides and small oligonucleotides ranging in size from two to eight bases. Elucidation of its N-terminal amino acid sequence permitted the cDNA cloning of the A. mellea nuclease via a PCR-based approach. Peptide mapping of the purified enzyme generated patterns consistent with the amino acid sequence coded for by the cloned cDNA. A BLAST search of the SwissProt database revealed that A. mellea nuclease shared significant amino acid similarity with two nucleases from Bacillus subtilis, suggesting that the three might constitute a distinct class of nucleolytic enzymes.