A strain of bacteria that can degrade lipoic acid was isolated from soil. The bacterium, adapted to use 0.4% dl-lipoate as the sole organic substrate to supply carbon, sulfur, and energy, was identified morphologically and physiologically as a strain of Pseudomonas putida. Degradation of 1,6-(14)C-lipoic acid, synthesized from 1,6-(14)C-adipic acid, was evidenced by: (i) loss of approximately 50% of the total radioactivity from the medium after bacterial growth; (ii) appearance of (14)C-degradation products upon paper and thin-layer chromatography of the culture medium; and (iii) oxygraphically measured utilization of O(2) by cells in the presence of lipoate or other oxidizable substrates. Analyses of the benzene extract of culture medium by infrared, nuclear magnetic resonance, and mass spectrometry, and by gas-liquid chromatography after desulfuration, have characterized bisnorlipoic acid, or 4,6-dithiohexanoic acid, as the major catabolite present in the medium. beta-Oxidation of the side chain is thus proven to be a pathway employed by the pseudomonad to degrade lipoic acid.