Twenty bacterial strains were examined on their ability to produce polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA) from different carbon sources under rich and depleted nitrogen conditions. Preliminary experiments with glucose as sole carbon source allowed to select PHA producing bacteria using FTIR spectroscopy. They were further tested with eight additional carbon substrates including organic, fatty acids or sugars. PHA content and monomer composition of four chosen strains (Pseudomonas putida mt-2, Bacillus megaterium DSM 90 and DSM 509, Corynebacterium glutamicum DSM 20137) were assessed by gas chromatography techniques for two cultural conditions: during growth phase on a mineral medium (MM) and after transfer of cells on a fresh MM without nitrogen (MM-N). For several carbon substrates, substantial amounts of PHA (up to 53% of the cell dry weight: CDW) were already obtained in MM for C. glutamicum DSM 20137 and the two B. megaterium strains; after transfer in MM-N, PHA contents remained constant except for B. megaterium DSM 509 where PHA production increased whatever the carbon source. P. putida mt-2 synthesized PHA under deprived nitrogen conditions. Highest PHA accumulation reached 48 and 77% of CDW with octanoic acid as substrate in B. megaterium DSM 90 and P. putida mt-2, respectively. Surprisingly, an atypical metabolic shift was observed for B. megaterium DSM 509 cultivated with nearly all unrelated carbon sources: whereas short chain length PHA (scl-PHA) were synthesized in MM, medium chain length PHA (mcl-PHA) were produced after transfer of cells into MM-N supplemented with the same substrate. Copyright © 2013 The Society for Biotechnology, Japan. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.