Structural and biochemical features suggest that the almost ubiquitous bacterial YbeY protein may serve catalytic and/or Hfq-like protective functions central to small RNA (sRNA)-mediated regulation and RNA metabolism. We have biochemically and genetically characterized the YbeY ortholog of the legume symbiont Sinorhizobium meliloti (SmYbeY). Co-immunoprecipitation (CoIP) with a FLAG-tagged SmYbeY yielded a poor enrichment in RNA species, compared to Hfq CoIP-RNA uncovered previously by a similar experimental setup. Purified SmYbeY behaved as a monomer that indistinctly cleaved singleand double-stranded RNA substrates, a unique ability among bacterial endoribonucleases. SmYbeY-mediated catalysis was supported by the divalent metal ions Mg2+, Mn2+ and Ca2+, which influenced in a different manner cleavage efficiency and reactivity patterns, with Ca2+ specifically blocking activity on double-stranded and some structured RNA molecules. SmYbeY loss-of-function compromised expression of core energy and RNA metabolism genes, whilst promoting accumulation of motility, late symbiotic and transport mRNAs. Some of the latter transcripts are known Hfq-binding sRNA targets and might be SmYbeY substrates. Genetic reporter and in vitro assays confirmed that SmYbeY is required for sRNA-mediated down-regulation of the amino acid ABC transporter prbA mRNA. We have thus discovered a bacterial endoribonuclease with unprecedented catalytic features, acting also as gene silencing enzyme.