A key intermediate for biodegradation of various distinct aromatic growth substrates in Comamonas testosteroni is protocatechuate (Pca), which is metabolized by the 4,5-extradiol (meta) ring fission pathway. A locus harbouring genes from C. testosteroni BR6020 was cloned, dubbed pmd, which encodes the enzymes that degrade Pca. The identity of pmdAB, encoding respectively the alpha- and beta-subunit of the Pca ring-cleavage enzyme, was confirmed by N-terminal sequencing and molecular mass determination of both subunits from the separated enzyme. Disruption of pmdA resulted in a strain unable to grow on Pca and a variety of aromatic substrates funnelled through this compound (m- and p-hydroxybenzoate, p-sulfobenzoate, phthalate, isophthalate, terephthalate, vanillate, isovanillate and veratrate). Growth on benzoate and o-aminobenzoate (anthranilate) was not affected in this strain, indicating that these substrates are metabolized via a different lower pathway. Tentative functions for the products of other pmd genes were assigned based on sequence identity and/or similarity to proteins from other proteobacteria involved in uptake or metabolism of aromatic compounds. This study provides evidence for a single lower pathway in C. testosteroni for metabolism of Pca, which is generated by different upper pathways acting on a variety of aromatic substrates.