Beta galactosidase is coded by a gene (lac z) in the lac operon of Escherichia coli. It is a metalloenzyme that splits lactose into glucose and galactose. It hydrolyzes terminal, non-reducing beta-D-galactose residues in beta-D-galactosides.
Activation by cations seems to be substrate dependent. K+, Na+, NH4+, Rb+, Cs+ and Mn++ all activate enzyme activity based upon the substrate used.