Pseudomonas fluorescens CHA0 suppresses black root rot of tobacco, a disease caused by the fungus Thielaviopsis basicola. Strain CHA0 excretes several metabolites with antifungal properties. The importance of one such metabolite, hydrogen cyanide, was tested in a gnotobiotic system containing an artificial, iron-rich soil. A cyanidenegative (hcn) mutant, CHA5, constructed by a gene replacement technique, protected the tobacco plant less effectively than did the wild-type CHA0. Complementation of strain CHA5 by the cloned wild-type hcn genes restored the strain's ability to suppress disease. An artificial transposon carrying the hcn genes of strain CHA0 (Tnhcn) was constructed and inserted into the genome of another P.fluorescens strain, P3, which naturally does not produce cyanide and gives poor plant protection. The P3::Tnhcn derivative synthesized cyanide and exhibited an improved ability to suppress disease. All bacterial strains colonized the roots similarly and did not influence significantly the survival of T.basicola in soil. We conclude that bacterial cyanide is an important but not the only factor involved in suppression of black root rot.