Motivated by the finding that Pseudomonas knackmussii B13 but not Rhodococcus opacus 1CP grows in the absence of externally provided CO(2), we investigated the assimilation of (13)CO(2) into active cells cultivated with non-labelled glucose as sole energy substrate. (13)C found in the bulk biomass indicated a substantial but different CO(2) assimilation by Pseudomonas and Rhodococcus, respectively (3500 per thousand and 2600 per thousand). Cellular fatty acids were labelled from -15 per thousand to 470 per thousand and amino acids from 500 per thousand to 24,000 per thousand demonstrating clear differences between various compound classes. 'You are what you eat plus 1 per thousand' is therefore only valid for the average bulk C without specific isotope signature deviation of the external CO(2) or carbonates. Odd-numbered and 10-methyl fatty acids, which are much more abundant in Rhodococcus or other Gram-positive bacteria, were up to fivefold higher enriched in (13)C relative to the Pseudomonas fatty acids. A high-level growth-phase-independent, labelling of the oxaloacetate-derived amino acids indicated heterotrophic CO(2) fixation by anaplerotic reactions known to replenish the tricarboxylic acid cycle. Although both strains assimilate CO(2) via similar general pathways, Rhodococcus depends to a much higher extent on carboxylations reactions with external CO(2) owing to the formation of odd-numbered fatty acids. As a general consequence, heterotrophic fixation of CO(2) should be taken into account in investigations of degradation experiments using isotope tracer compounds.