The enzyme catalyses a step in the biosynthetic pathway of 2-aminoethylphosphonate, a component of the capsular polysaccharide complex of Bacteroides fragilis. Requires thiamine diphosphate and Mg2+ as cofactors. The enzyme is activated by the divalent cations Mg2+, Ca2+ and Mn2+. Pyruvate and sulfopyruvate can also act as substrates, but more slowly. This enzyme drives the reaction catalysed by EC 184.108.40.206, phosphoenolpyruvate mutase, in the thermodynamically unfavourable direction of 3-phosphonopyruvate formation . It is the initial step in all of the major biosynthetic pathways of phosphonate natural products .
Studies on the biosynthesis of bialaphos. Biochemical mechanism of C-P bond formation: discovery of phosphonopyruvate decarboxylase which catalyzes the formation of phosphonoacetaldehyde from phosphonopyruvate.