A mesocosm experiment was performed to study the influence of nutrients on activity and diversity of bacterial assemblages from the Mediterranean Sea. Changes in the diversity of the predominant bacterial populations were monitored by DGGE fingerprinting of PCR products derived from 16S rRNA encoding genes. Fluctuations in the diversity of the most active populations was inferred by performing the DGGE fingerprinting on the basis of the cellular rRNA after reverse transcription and PCR amplification. DNA-derived DGGE patterns obtained from duplicate control and nutrient-enriched mesocosms showed differences in the development of the bacterial communities between control and nutrient-enriched experimental mesocosms. Multidimensional scaling analysis of the DNA-derived DGGE fingerprints indicated that duplicate treatments were reproducible. DNA- and RNA-derived DGGE fingerprints of bacterial assemblages changed over time, showing that the composition of the bacterial assemblages, as well as the most active bacterial populations changed during different phases of the incubation. Sequences of predominant DGGE bands in RNA-derived patterns were similar to 16S rRNA gene sequences of members of the alpha-, gamma- and delta-Proteobacteria and of the Cytophaga-Flavobacterium-Bacteroides phylum (CFB). Bands corresponding to Ruegeria-like bacteria and members of the CFB became especially dominant during the course of incubation, suggesting that these populations were important contributors to bacterial production and activity in the post-grazing phase of the experiment.