Oxygen-dependent growth of the Bradyrhizobium japonicum hemA mutant MLG1 (M.L. Guerinot and B.K. Chelm, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 83:1837-1841, 1986) was demonstrated in cultured cells in the absence of exogenous delta-aminolevulinic acid (ALA), but growth of analogous mutants of Rhizobium meliloti or of Escherichia coli was not observed unless ALA was added to the yeast extract-containing media. No heme could be detected in extracts of strain MLG1 cells as measured by the absorption or by the peroxidase activity of the heme moiety, but the rates of growth and endogenous respiration of the mutant were essentially identical to those found in the parent strain. A role for ALA in the viability of strain MLG1 could not be ruled out since the ALA analog levulinic acid inhibited growth, but neither ALA synthase nor glutamate-dependent ALA synthesis activity was found in the mutant. The data show that the cytochromes normally discerned in wild-type B. japonicum cultured cells by absorption spectroscopy are not essential for aerobic growth or respiration.