Fatty acid degradation was investigated in Caulobacter crescentus, a bacterium that exhibits membrane-mediated differentiation events. Two strains of C. crescentus were shown to utilize oleic acid as sole carbon source. Five enzymes of the fatty acid beta-oxidation pathway, acyl-coenzyme A (CoA) synthase, crotonase, thiolase, beta-hydroxyacyl-CoA dehydrogenase, and acyl-CoA dehydrogenase, were identified. The activities of these enzymes were significantly higher in C. crescentus than the fully induced levels observed in Escherichia coli. Growth in glucose or glucose plus oleic acid decreased fatty acid uptake and lowered the specific activity of the enzymes involved in beta-oxidation by 2- to 3-fold, in contrast to the 50-fold glucose repression found in E. coli. The mild glucose repression of the acyl-CoA synthase was reversed by exogenous dibutyryl cyclic AMP. Acyl-CoA synthase activity was shown to be the same in oleic acid-grown cells and in cells grown in the presence of succinate, a carbon source not affected by catabolite repression. Thus, fatty acid degradation by the beta-oxidation pathway is constitutive in C. crescentus and is only mildly affected by growth in the presence of glucose. Tn5 insertion mutants unable to form colonies when oleic acid was the sole carbon source were isolated. However, these mutants efficiently transported fatty acids and had beta-oxidation enzyme levels comparable with that of the wild type. Our inability to obtain fatty acid degradation mutants after a wide search, coupled with the high constitutive levels of the beta-oxidation enzymes, suggest that fatty acid turnover, as has proven to be the case fatty acid biosynthesis, might play an essential role in membrane biogenesis and cell cycle events in C. crescentus.