The pathway by which glutamate is degraded as a carbon source has not previously been elucidated, but enzymatic analysis of Rhizobium meliloti CMF1 indicated that both glutamate dehydrogenase (GDH) and gamma-aminobutyrate (GABA) bypass activities were present in free living cells. However, when similar studies were performed on R. meliloti CMF1 bacteroids, isolated from alfalfa nodules, only GABA bypass activities were detectable. Both GDH and GABA bypass activities were influenced by the carbon source provided, with maximum activities being detected when glutamate was present as sole carbon and nitrogen source. Addition of a second carbon source, such as succinate, to the growth medium did not influence GDH activity but substantially decreased levels of the first enzyme of the GABA bypass, glutamate decarboxylase (GDC). Cyclic adenosine 3'5'-monophosphate (cAMP) failed to increase GDC activities in R. meliloti CMF1 cells grown in the presence of an additional carbon source. It is proposed that the GABA bypass is a major mechanism of glutamate carbon degradation in R. meliloti CMF1, a system whose enzymatic activities are influenced by the nature of the carbon source present in the growth environment.