We have analysed the response of the acidophilic chemolithotroph Thiobacillus ferrooxidans to phosphate starvation. Cultivation of the bacteria in the absence of added phosphate induced a remarkable filamentation of the cells. Polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis revealed several proteins whose levels increased upon phosphate limitation, as well as some polypeptides that were exclusively synthesized under this growth limitation. One of the proteins whose level increased by the lack of phosphate was apparently an acid phosphatase with a pH optimum of about 3.8, and a molecular mass of 26 kDa, which was located in the periplasm. The N-terminal sequence of a 26 kDa protein derepressed by starvation, which may correspond to the T. ferrooxidans phosphatase, showed 30% and 35% identity with the known sequence of Lysobacter enzymogenes and Escherichia coli alkaline phosphatases, respectively.