Two strains, Rhodoferax sp. P230 and Delftia (Comamonas) acidovorans MCI, have previously been shown to carry activities for the degradation of the two enantiomers of (RS)-2-(2,4-dichlorophenoxy-)propionate (dichlorprop) and (RS)-2-(4-chloro-2-methylphenoxy-)propionate (mecoprop) and, in addition, are capable of degrading phenoxyacetate derivatives 2.4-dichlorophenoxyacetate (2,4-D) and 4-chloro-2-methylphenoxyacetate (MCPA). Metabolism of the herbicides is initiated by alpha-ketoglutarate-dependent dioxygenases for both enantiomers of the phenoxypropionate herbicides and for 2,4-D. These activities were constitutively expressed for both enantiomers of dichlorprop in strain MC1 and for the Renantiomer in strain P230. Enzyme activities for the complete degradation of phenoxyacetate and phenoxypropionate herbicides were induced during incubation on either of these herbicides. Strain MC1 has about threefold higher activities for the degradation of dichlorprop and for growth on this substrate (mumax = 0.15 h(-1)) than strain P230; the maximum growth rate on 2,4-D amounts to 0.045 h(-1) with strain MC1. Dichlorprop is utilized faster than mecoprop and the R-enantiomers are cleaved with higher rates than the S-enantiomers. The degradation of the chlorophenolic intermediates seems to proceed via the modified ortho cleavage pathway as indicated by activities of the respective enzymes. The enzymatic results were supported by genetic investigations by which the presence of the genes tfdB (encoding a dichlorophenol hydroxylase), tfdC (encoding a chlorocatechol 1,2-dioxygenase) and tfdD (encoding a chloromuconate cycloisomerase) could be demonstrated in both strains by PCR after application of respective primers. The presence of the tfdA gene (encoding a 2,4-D/alpha-ketoglutarate dioxygenase) was only shown for strain P230 but was lacking in strain MC1. Sequence analysis of the tfd gene fragments revealed high homology to the degradative genes of other proteobacterial strains degrading chloroaromatic compounds. Strain MC1 carries a plasmid of about 120 kb which apparently harbors herbicide degradative genes as concluded from deletion mutants which have lost 2,4-D[phenoxalkanoate]/alpha-ketoglutarate dioxygenase activities for cleavage of the R- and S-enantiomer, and of 2,4-D. For strain P230, no plasmid could be demonstrated; the activity was stably conserved in this strain during growth under nonselective conditions.