A nitrilotriacetate (NTA)-degrading Pseudomonas species was shown to degrade Ca, Mn, Mg, Cu, Zn, Cd, Fe, and Na chelates of NTA at nearly equal rates when the appropriate metal concentrations are low enough to avoid toxicity from the freed metal. Ni-NTA, however, was not degraded. When higher concentrations of metal-NTA substrates were used, soil stimulated degradation of Cu, Zn, and Cd complexes, probably as a result of binding toxic freed metals. The metal associated with the NTA substrate does not appear to be transported into the cell, since metals do not accumulate in the cells and the presence of NTA reduces metal toxicity. The data are consistent with the hypothesis that an envelope-associated component, probably a transport protein involved in binding, is responsible for the disassociation of the metal from the NTA. Both soil and this NTA-degrading organism destabilize the metal-NTA complex, which suggests that in the natural environment both would act to limit mobilization of metals as soluble NTA chelates. Crude soluble enzyme preparations degrade Fe-, Mn-, and Na-NTA complexes but not Cu-NTA.