The enzymes nitrilase, cyanide dihydratase and cyanide hydratase are a group of closely related proteins. The proteins show significant similarities at the amino acid and protein structure level but the enzymes show many differences in catalytic capability. Nitrilases, while catalysing the hydration of nitrile to the corresponding acid, vary widely in substrate specificity. Cyanide dihydratase and cyanide hydratase use HCN as the only efficient substrate but produce acid and amide products, respectively. The similarities of all these enzymes at the amino acid level but the functional differences between them provide a rich source of material for the study of structure/function relationships in this biotechnologically important group of enzymes. This review provides an overview of current understanding of the genetics and biochemistry of this interesting group of enzymes.