The metabolic interactions between proteinase-producing bacteria and other members of bacterial communities are poorly investigated, although they are important for the understanding of structure-function relationships in complex ecosystems. We constructed simple model communities consisting of proteolytic and non-proteolytic Pseudomonas fluorescens strains to identify relevant interactions and to assess their specific significance during the mobilization of protein for growth. The proteolytic or non-proteolytic model communities were established by co-inoculating proteolytic or proteinase-deficient Tn5-mutants of P. fluorescens strain ON2 with the non-proteolytic reporter strain DF57-N3 that expresses bioluminescence in response to nitrogen limitation. The growth medium was composed such that growth would be nitrogen limited in the absence of proteolytic activity. In the proteolytic communities data on growth and nitrogen availability showed that the protein hydrolysates were available to both the proteolytic and the non-proteolytic strain. Competition between these strains profoundly affected both growth and proteinase production. Hence, the mobilization of protein was closely coupled to the competitive success of the proteolytic strain. These findings provide new insight into the metabolic interactions that occur when protein is degraded in mixed bacterial communities.