Sprouts of chicory (Cichorium intybus), a vegetable grown in the dark, have a slightly bitter taste associated with the presence of guaianolides, eudesmanolides, and germacranolides. The committed step in the biosynthesis of these compounds is catalyzed by a ( )-germacrene A synthase. Formation of the lactone ring is the postulated next step in biosynthesis of the germacrene-derived sesquiterpene lactones. The present study confirms this hypothesis by isolation of enzyme activities from chicory roots that introduce a carboxylic acid function in the germacrene A isopropenyl side chain, which is necessary for lactone ring formation. ( )-Germacrene A is hydroxylated to germacra-1(10),4,11(13)-trien-12-ol by a cytochrome P450 enzyme, and is subsequently oxidized to germacra-1(10),4,11(13)-trien-12-oic acid by NADP -dependent dehydrogenase(s). Both oxidized germacrenes were detected as their Cope-rearrangement products elema-1,3,11(13)-trien-12-ol and elema-1,3,11(13)-trien-12-oic acid, respectively. The cyclization products of germacra-1(10),4,11(13)-trien-12-ol, i.e. costol, were also observed. The ( )-germacrene A hydroxylase is inhibited by carbon monoxide (blue-light reversible), has an optimum pH at 8.0, and hydroxylatesβ-elemene with a modest degree of enantioselectivity.