Aromatic compounds represent an important source of energy for soil-dwelling organisms. The beta-ketoadipate pathway is a key metabolic pathway involved in the catabolism of the aromatic compounds protocatechuate and catechol, and here we show through enzymatic analysis and mutant analysis that genes required for growth and catabolism of protocatechuate in the soil-dwelling bacterium Sinorhizobium meliloti are organized on the pSymB megaplasmid in two transcriptional units designated pcaDCHGB and pcaIJF. The pcaD promoter was mapped by primer extension, and expression from this promoter is demonstrated to be regulated by the LysR-type protein PcaQ. Beta-ketoadipate succinyl-coenzyme A (CoA) transferase activity in S. meliloti was shown to be encoded by SMb20587 and SMb20588, and these genes have been renamed pcaI and pcaJ, respectively. These genes are organized in an operon with a putative beta-ketoadipyl-CoA thiolase gene (pcaF), and expression of the pcaIJF operon is shown to be regulated by an IclR-type transcriptional regulator, SMb20586, which we have named pcaR. We show that pcaR transcription is negatively autoregulated and that PcaR is a positive regulator of pcaIJF expression and is required for growth of S. meliloti on protocatechuate as the carbon source. The characterization of the protocatechuate catabolic pathway in S. meliloti offers an opportunity for comparison with related species, including Agrobacterium tumefaciens. Differences observed between S. meliloti and A. tumefaciens pcaIJ offer the first evidence of pca genes that may have been acquired after speciation in these closely related species.