The effect of a BTEX mixture on the biodegradation of methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) and its degradation intermediate, tert-butyl alcohol (TBA) was investigated in the pure bacterial culture UC1, which has been identified to be a strain of the known MTBE-degrader PM1 based on greater than 99% 16S rDNA similarity. Several degradation studies were carried out on UC1 at three initial concentration levels of MTBE or TBA: 6-7; 15-17; and 40-45 mg/l, both with and without BTEX present cumulatively at about half of the MTBE or TBA molar mass in the system. The BTEX mixture was observed not to affect either the rate or the degradation lag period of MTBE or TBA degradation, except that the TBA degradation rate actually increased when BTEX was present initially in the highest concentration studies. When serving as the sole substrate, the MTBE degradation rate ranged from 48 +/- 1.2 to 200 +/- 7.0 mg(MTBE)/g(dw) h, and the TBA degradation rate from 140 +/- 18 to 530 +/- 70 mg(TBA)/g(dw) h. When present with BTEX, MTBE and TBA rates ranged from 46 +/- 2.2 to 210 +/- 14 and 170 +/- 28 to 780 +/- 43 mg(TBA)/g(dw) h, respectively. In studies where varying concentrations of TBA were present with 5 mg/l MTBE, both compounds were degraded simultaneously with no obvious preference for either substrate. In the highest concentration study of TBA with 5 mg/l MTBE, BTEX was also observed to increase the ultimate rate of TBA degradation. In addition to exploring the affect of BTEX, this study also provides general insight into the metabolism of MTBE and TBA by pure culture UC1.