The active efflux system contributing to the solvent tolerance of Pseudomonas putida S12 was characterized physiologically. The mutant P. putida JK1, which lacks the active efflux system, was compared with the wild-type organism. None of 20 known substrates of common multi-drug-resistant pumps had a stronger growth-inhibiting effect on the mutant than on the wild type. The amount of [14C]toluene accumulating in P. putida S12 increased in the presence of the solvent xylene and in the presence of uncouplers. The effect of uncouplers confirms the proton dependency of the efflux system in P. putida S12. Other compounds, potential substrates for the solvent pump, did not affect the accumulation of [14C]toluene. These results show that the efflux system in P. putida S12 is specific for organic solvents and does not export antibiotics or other known substrates of multi-drug-resistant pumps.