Succinic acid (SA), a dicarboxylic acid of industrial importance, can be efficiently produced by metabolically engineered Mannheimia succiniciproducens. Malate dehydrogenase (MDH) is one of the key enzymes for SA production, but has not been well characterized. Here we report biochemical and structural analyses of various MDHs and development of hyper-SA producing M. succiniciproducens by introducing the best MDH. Corynebacterium glutamicum MDH (CgMDH) shows the highest specific activity and least substrate inhibition, whereas M. succiniciproducens MDH (MsMDH) shows low specific activity at physiological pH and strong uncompetitive inhibition toward oxaloacetate (ki of 67.4 and 588.9 mu M for MsMDH and CgMDH, respectively). Structural comparison of the two MDHs reveals a key residue influencing the specific activity and susceptibility to substrate inhibition. A high-inoculum fed-batch fermentation of the final strain expressing cgmdh produces 134.25gL(-1) of SA with the maximum productivity of 21.3gL(-1)h(-1), demonstrating the importance of enzyme optimization in strain development. Malate dehydrogenase (MDH) is one of the key enzymes for succinic acid (SA) bioproduction. Here, the authors report biochemical and structural analyses of various MDHs to reveal amino acids influencing the specific activity and susceptibility to substrate inhibition, and achieve industrial-level SA production.