Oxygen constitutes a constant challenge for the survival of strict anaerobes in the oral environment. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of oxygen on the physiology and growth of Porphyromonas gingivalis in a continuous culture system when grown under conditions of hemin limitation and excess. Results showed that, when grown in the presence of hemin at 0.5 mg/l, P. gingivalis could tolerate low levels of oxygen, being able to reach steady-state when 6% oxygen was present in the incoming gas mixture. When the hemin concentration was increased to 5 mg/l, the culture tolerated 10% oxygen. Anaerobically-grown cells were coccoid in shape, whereas those grown in the presence of oxygen were bacillary. Acetate was the predominant end-product in cultures grown in the presence of oxygen or in cultures hemin-limited. Despite some changes in the activity of Arg- and Lys-gingipain, most of the proteolytic activity was retained in the presence of oxygen. Activity of each of the three anti-oxidant enzymes tested (NADH oxidase, NADH peroxidase and SOD) was detected under all conditions and usually increased under oxygenated environments. Higher activities were also seen in the hemin-limited cultures. These results show some of the changes that occur in the physiology of P. gingivalis as a result of oxidative stress and confirm that hemin has a protective effect on the growth of the microorganism in the presence of oxygen.