The 0.2 microm filtration of sea water samples from the Mediterranean Sea (Bay of Calvi, Corsica), collected from 10 m and 35 m depth led to the isolation of several gram-negative bacterial strains able to grow on full-strength media as well as on diluted media. The analysis of the 16S rRNA gene sequences and estimation of the phylogenetic relationships of these facultative oligotrophic bacteria indicated that they grouped into two phylogenetic branches. The strains RE10F/2, RE10F/5 (10 m depth samples) and RE35/F12 (35 m depth samples) were assigned to the gamma-subclass, while RE35F/1 (35m depth sample) was assigned to the alpha-4-subclass of the Proteobacteria. The strains RE10/F2 and RE10/F5 were most closely related to species and strains of the Pseudoalteromonas group, whereas the strain RE35F/12 placed adjacent to the family Vibrionaceae. The phylogenetic analysis of strain RE35F/1 revealed that this bacterium clusters with marine strains and species of the aerobic anoxygenic phototrophic bacteria Erythrobacter as well as Erythromicrobium and more distantly to Sphingomonas spp. Supplementary to those genotypic classifications the chemotaxonomic signatures including the major respiratory lipoquinone systems, the cellular fatty acid compositions as well as the polyamine contents of the bacteria were investigated. The isolated organisms displayed differences in their physiological and biochemical properties to already described strains belonging to the same genera or families, as revealed by the comparative 16S rRNA analysis. Despite the fact that these bacteria were isolated from a 0.2 microm filtrate, the cultured organisms which were all rod-shaped, displayed width dimensions ranging from 0.4 up to 0.7 microm, indicating that these bacteria were starvation forms at the time of isolation and not ultramicrobacteria as defined by Torella and Morita (1981) or by Schut et al. (1993). Because our isolated strains represent potentially new taxa, this first investigation on 0.2 pm filterable bacteria from the Western Mediterranean Sea supports the hypothesis that this bacterial fraction contributes to the diversity of marine bacteria.