The ThyA gene that encodes for thymidylate synthase (TS) is absent in the genomes of a large number of bacteria, including several human pathogens. Many of these bacteria also lack the genes for dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR) and thymidine kinase and are totally dependent on an alternative enzyme for thymidylate synthesis. Thy1 encodes flavin-dependent TS (FDTS, previously denoted as TSCP) and shares no sequence homology with classical TS genes. Mechanistic studies of a FDTS from Thermotoga maritima (TM0449) are presented here. Several isotopic labeling experiments reveal details of the catalyzed reaction, and a chemical mechanism that is consistent with the experimental data is proposed. The reaction proceeds via a ping-pong mechanism where nicotinamide binding and release precedes the oxidative half-reaction. The enzyme is primarily pro-R specific with regard to the nicotinamide (NADPH), the oxidation of which is the rate-limiting step of the whole catalytic cascade. An enzyme-bound flavin is reduced with an isotope effect of 25 (consistent with H-tunneling) and exchanges protons with the solvent prior to the reduction of an intermediate methylene. A quantitative assay was developed, and the kinetic parameters were measured. A significant NADPH substrate inhibition and large K(M) rationalized the slow activity reported for this enzyme in the past. These and other findings are compared with classical TS (ThyA) catalysis in terms of kinetic and molecular mechanisms. The differences between the FDTS proposed mechanism and that of the classical TS are striking and invoke the notion that mechanism-based drugs will selectively inhibit FDTS and will not have much effect on human (and other eukaryotes) TS. Since TS activity is essential to DNA replication, the unique mechanism of FDTS makes it an attractive target for antibiotic drug development.