Most aerobic biodegradation pathways for hydrocarbons involve iron-containing oxygenases. In iron-limited environments, such as the rhizosphere, this may influence the rate of degradation of hydrocarbon pollutants. We investigated the effects of iron limitation on the degradation of toluene by Pseudomonas putida mt2 and the transconjugant rhizosphere bacterium P. putida WCS358(pWWO), both of which contain the pWWO (TOL) plasmid that harbors the genes for toluene degradation. The results of continuous-culture experiments showed that the activity of the upper-pathway toluene monooxygenase decreased but that the activity of benzyl alcohol dehydrogenase was not affected under iron-limited conditions. In contrast, the activities of three meta-pathway (lower-pathway) enzymes were all found to be reduced when iron concentrations were decreased. Additional experiments in which citrate was used as a growth substrate and the pathways were induced with the gratuitous inducer o-xylene showed that expression of the TOL genes increased the iron requirement in both strains. Growth yields were reduced and substrate affinities decreased under iron-limited conditions, suggesting that iron availability can be an important parameter in the oxidative breakdown of hydrocarbons.