Analysis of the catabolic potential of Pseudomonas putida KT2440 against a wide range of natural aromatic compounds and sequence comparisons with the entire genome of this microorganism predicted the existence of at least four main pathways for the catabolism of central aromatic intermediates, that is, the protocatechuate (pca genes) and catechol (cat genes) branches of the beta-ketoadipate pathway, the homogentisate pathway (hmg/fah/mai genes) and the phenylacetate pathway (pha genes). Two additional gene clusters that might be involved in the catabolism of N-heterocyclic aromatic compounds (nic cluster) and in a central meta-cleavage pathway (pcm genes) were also identified. Furthermore, the genes encoding the peripheral pathways for the catabolism of p-hydroxybenzoate (pob), benzoate (ben), quinate (qui), phenylpropenoid compounds (fcs, ech, vdh, cal, van, acd and acs), phenylalanine and tyrosine (phh, hpd) and n-phenylalkanoic acids (fad) were mapped in the chromosome of P. putida KT2440. Although a repetitive extragenic palindromic (REP) element is usually associated with the gene clusters, a supraoperonic clustering of catabolic genes that channel different aromatic compounds into a common central pathway (catabolic island) was not observed in P. putida KT2440. The global view on the mineralization of aromatic compounds by P. putida KT2440 will facilitate the rational manipulation of this strain for improving biodegradation/biotransformation processes, and reveals this bacterium as a useful model system for studying biochemical, genetic, evolutionary and ecological aspects of the catabolism of aromatic compounds.