Salt stress is primarily osmotic stress, and halophilic/halotolerant microorganisms have evolved two basic mechanisms of osmoadaplation: the KCI-type and the compatible-solute type, the latter representing a very flexible mode of adaptation making use of distinct stabilizing properties of compatible solutes. A comprehensive survey, using HPLC and NMR methods, has revealed the full diversity of euhacterial compatible solutes found in nature. With the exception of proline (a proteinogenic amino acid) they are characterized as amino acid derivatives of the following types: betaines, ectoines, N-acetylated diamino acids and N-derivatized carboxamides of glutamine. From our present knowledge of hiosynthetic pathways it appears that, apart from glycine betaine, all nitrogen-containing compatible solutes originate from two major pathways (the aspartate branch and the glutamate branch). Uptake of compatible solutes from the growth medium (environment) seems to have preference over de novo synthesis. Therefore in the natural ecosystem the solutes of primary producers (mainly glycine betaine), which are readily excreted upon dilution stress, certainly play an important role as a ‘preferred’ solute source for heterolrophic organisms, and as a ‘vital’ source for organisms unable to synthesize their own compatible solutes.