TOL plasmid pWW0 and plasmid NAH7 encode catabolic enzymes required for oxidative degradation of toluene and naphthalene, respectively. The gene order of the catabolic operon of NAH7 for salicylate oxidation was determined to be: promoter--nahG (the structural gene for salicylate hydroxylase)--nahH (catechol 2.3-dioxygenase)--nahI (hydroxymuconic semialdehyde dehydrogenase)--nahN (hydroxymuconic semialdehyde hydrolase)--nahL (2-oxopent-4-enoate hydratase). This order is identical to that of the isofunctional genes of TOL plasmid pWW0. The complete nucleotide sequence of nahH was determined and compared with that of xylE, the isofunctional gene of TOL plasmid pWW0. There were 20% and 16% differences in their nucleotide and amino acid sequences, respectively. The homology between the NAH7 and TOL pWW0 plasmids ends upstream of the Shine-Dalgarno sequences of nahH and xylE, but the homology continues downstream of these genes. This observation suggested that genes for the catechol oxidative enzymes of NAH7 and TOL pWW0 were derived from a common ancestral sequence which was transferred as a discrete segment of DNA between plasmids.