We used isomeric fluorotoluenes as model substrates to study the catabolism of toluene by five deuteromycete fungi and one ascomycete fungus capable of growth on toluene as the sole carbon and energy source, as well as by two fungi (Cunninghamella echinulata and Aspergillus niger) that cometabolize toluene. Whole cells were incubated with 2-, 3-, and 4-fluorotoluene, and metabolites were characterized by 19F nuclear magnetic resonance. Oxidation of fluorotoluene by C. echinulata was initiated either at the aromatic ring, resulting in fluorinated o-cresol, or at the methyl group to form fluorobenzoate. The initial conversion of the fluorotoluenes by toluene-grown fungi occurred only at the side chain and resulted in fluorinated benzoates. The latter compounds were the substrate for the ring hydroxylation and, depending on the fluorine position, were further metabolized up to catecholic intermediates. From the 19F nuclear magnetic resonance metabolic profiles, we propose that diverse fungi that grow on toluene assimilate toluene by an initial oxidation of the methyl group.