Pseudomonas sp. strain MT1 has recently been reported to degrade 4- and 5-chlorosalicylate by a pathway assumed to consist of a patchwork of reactions comprising enzymes of the 3-oxoadipate pathway. Genes encoding the initial steps in the degradation of salicylate and substituted derivatives were now localized and sequenced. One of the gene clusters characterized (sal) showed a novel gene arrangement, with salA, encoding a salicylate 1-hydroxylase, being clustered with salCD genes, encoding muconate cycloisomerase and catechol 1,2-dioxygenase, respectively, and was expressed during growth on salicylate and chlorosalicylate. A second gene cluster (cat), exhibiting the typical catRBCA arrangement of genes of the catechol branch of the 3-oxo-adipate pathway in Pseudomonas strains, was expressed during growth on salicylate. Despite their high sequence similarities with isoenzymes encoded by the cat gene cluster, the catechol 1,2-dioxygenase and muconate cycloisomerase encoded by the sal cluster showed unusual kinetic properties. Enzymes were adapted for turnover of 4-chlorocatechol and 3-chloromuconate; however, 4-methylcatechol and 3-methylmuconate were identified as the preferred substrates. Investigation of the substrate spectrum identified 4- and 5-methylsalicylate as growth substrates, which were effectively converted by enzymes of the sal cluster into 4-methylmuconolactone, followed by isomerization to 3-methylmuconolactone. The function of the sal gene cluster is therefore to channel both chlorosubstituted and methylsubstituted salicylates into a catechol ortho cleavage pathway, followed by dismantling of the formed substituted muconolactones through specific pathways.