A natural bacterial isolate that we have classified as Pseudomonas acidovorans grows on the lignin model compounds 1-(3,4-dimethoxyphenyl)-2-(2-methoxyphenoxy)propane-1,3-diol (compound 1) and 1-(4-hydroxy-3-methoxyphenyl)-2-(2-methoxyphenoxy)propane-1,3-diol (compound 1'), as well as on the corresponding 1-oxo compounds (2 and 2') as sole sources of carbon and energy. Metabolic intermediates present in cultures growing on compound 1 included compound 2, 2-methoxyphenol (guaiacol [compound 3]), beta-hydroxypro-pioveratrone (compound 4), acetoveratrone (compound 5), and veratric acid (compound 6). Also identified were compounds 1', 2', beta-hydroxypropiovanillone (compound 4'), and acetovanillone (compound 5'), indicating that 4-O demethylation also occurs. The phenolic intermediates were the same as those found in cultures growing on compound 1'. Compounds 2 and 2' were in part also reduced to compounds 1 and 1', respectively. Compound 3 was shown to be derived from the 2-methoxyphenoxy moiety. A suggested degradation scheme is as follows: compound 1-->2-->(3 + 4)-->5-->6 (and similarly for 1'). In this scheme, the key reaction is cleavage of the ether linkage between C-2 (C(beta)) of the phenylpropane moiety and the 2-methoxyphenoxy moiety in compounds 2 and 2' (i.e., beta-aryl ether cleavage). On the basis of compounds identified, viz., 3 and 4 (4'), cleavage appears formally to be reductive. Because this is unlikely, the initial cleavage products probably were not detected. The implications of these results for the enzyme(s) responsible are discussed.