Twelve mecoprop-degrading bacteria were isolated from soil samples, and their genetic and phenotypic characteristics were investigated. Analysis of 16S rDNA sequences indicated that the isolates were related to members of the genus Sphingomonas. Ten different chromosomal DNA patterns were obtained by polymerase-chain-reaction (PCR) amplification of repetitive extragenic palindromic (REP) sequences from the 12 isolates. The isolates were found to be able to utilize the chiral herbicide mecoprop as a sole source of carbon and energy. While seven of the isolates were able to degrade both (R)- and (S)-mecoprop, four isolates exhibited enantioselective degradation of the (S)-type and one isolate could degrade only the (R)-enantiomer. All of the isolates were observed to possess plasmid DNAs. When certain plasmids were removed from isolates MP11, MP15, and MP23, those strains could no longer degrade mecoprop. This compelling result suggests that plasmid DNAs, in this case, conferred the ability to degrade the herbicide. The isolates MP13, MP15, and MP24 were identified as the same strain; however, they exhibited different plasmid profiles. This indicates that these isolates acquired different mecoprop-degradative plasmids in different soils through natural gene transfer.