Azotobacter vinelandii cydAB mutants lacking cytochrome bd lost viability in stationary phase, irrespective of temperature, but microaerobiosis or iron addition to stationary phase cultures prevented viability loss. Growth on solid medium was inhibited by a diffusible factor from neighbouring cells, and by iron chelators, In(III) or Ga(III); microaerobic growth overcame inhibition by the extracellular factor. Siderophore production and total Fe(III)-chelating activity were not markedly affected in Cyd(-) mutants, and remained responsive to iron repression. Cyd(-) mutants were hypersensitive to Cu(II), Zn(II), and compounds exerting oxidative stress. Failure to synthesise haemoproteins does not explain the complex phenotype since mutants retained significant catalase activity. We hypothesise that Cyd(-) mutants are defective in maintaining the near-anoxic cytoplasm required for reductive iron metabolism and nitrogenase activity.