Defined deletion mutants of Escherichia coli defective for the synthesis of pyruvate formate-lyase (PFL) or pyruvate dehydrogenase (PDH) were analysed in regards their growth in batch culture and their enzyme levels under fermentative and nitrate respiratory conditions. A pfl mutant proved not to be completely auxotrophic for acetate when grown anaerobically in glucose minimal medium. In contrast, a pfl aceEF double mutant exhibited an absolute requirement for acetate, indicating that PDH is the source of acetyl-CoA in the pfl mutant. Growth of both pfl and aceEF single mutants under nitrate respiratory conditions was essentially indistinguishable from the wild-type. Thus, either PFL or PDH can be used to catabolise pyruvate in nitrate-respiring cells. The activities of PFL and PDH measured after growth with nitrate are commensurate with this proposal.