Cell suspensions of Acinetobacter calcoaceticus strain DSM 586 and DSM 590 were able to grow on benzoic, p-hydroxybenzoic and vanillic acid as sole carbon source. Testing the utilization of trans-ferulic and p-coumaric acid, we found that the sole A. calcoaceticus DSM 586 efficiently degraded the lignocellulose related monomers. Cells induced with trans-ferulic acid were able to oxidize trans-ferulic, p-coumaric, vanillic, p-hydroxybenzoic and protocatechuic acid at rates higher than the uninduced culture. The same activity was found in the p-coumaric acid induced culture. Two aromatic compounds, vanillic and p-hydroxybenzoic acid, were isolated from culture filtrates of trans-ferulic and p-coumaric acid grown cells, respectively, and further characterized by high performance liquid chromatography. 1H- and 13C-nuclear magnetic resonance and ultraviolet spectrophotometry. Cell extracts of trans-ferulic or p-coumaric acid induced cultures were shown to rapidly convert protocatechuic acid to beta-carboxymuconic acid. Moreover, A. calcoaceticus DSM 586 produced high levels of protocatechuic 3,4-dioxygenase compared to cathecol 1,2-dioxygenase and gentisate 1,2-dioxygenase in the degradation of trans-ferulic or p-coumaric acid. Based upon these results, a reaction sequence for the complete degradation of trans-ferulic and p-coumaric acid in A. calcoaceticus DSM 586 is proposed.