The atrazine chlorohydrolase AtzA has evolved within the past 50 years to catalyze the hydrolytic dechlorination of the herbicide atrazine. It is of wide research interest for two reasons: first, catalytic improvement of the enzyme would facilitate its application in bioremediation, and second, because of its recent evolution, it presents a rare opportunity to examine the early stages in the acquisition of new catalytic activities. Using a structural model of the AtzA-atrazine complex, a region of the substrate-binding pocket was targeted for combinatorial randomization. Identification of improved variants through this process informed the construction of a variant AtzA enzyme with 20-fold improvement in its kcat/Km value compared with that of the wild-type enzyme. The reduction in Km observed in the AtzA variants has allowed the full kinetic profile for the AtzA-catalyzed dechlorination of atrazine to be determined for the first time, revealing the hitherto-unreported substrate cooperativity in AtzA. Since substrate cooperativity is common among deaminases, which are the closest structural homologs of AtzA, it is possible that this phenomenon is a remnant of the catalytic activity of the evolutionary progenitor of AtzA. A catalytic mechanism that suggests a plausible mechanistic route for the evolution of dechlorinase activity in AtzA from an ancestral deaminase is proposed.