The biosynthetic pathway for the rare compatible solute mannosylglucosylglycerate (MGG) accumulated by Rhodopirellula baltica, a marine member of the phylum Planctomycetes, has been elucidated. Like one of the pathways used in the thermophilic bacterium Petrotoga mobilis, it has genes coding for glucosyl-3-phosphoglycerate synthase (GpgS) and mannosylglucosyl-3-phosphoglycerate (MGPG) synthase (MggA). However, unlike Ptg. mobilis, the mesophilic R. baltica uses a novel and very specific MGPG phosphatase (MggB). It also lacks a key enzyme of the alternative pathway in Ptg. mobilis - the mannosylglucosylglycerate synthase (MggS) that catalyses the condensation of glucosylglycerate with GDP-mannose to produce MGG. The R. baltica enzymes GpgS, MggA, and MggB were expressed in E. coli and characterized in terms of kinetic parameters, substrate specificity, temperature and pH dependence. This is the first characterization of genes and enzymes for the synthesis of compatible solutes in the phylum Planctomycetes and for the synthesis of MGG in a mesophile.