The possibility of the accidental or deliberate release of genetically engineered microorganisms into the environment has accentuated the need to study their survival in, and effect on, natural habitats. In this study, Pseudomonas putida UWC1 harboring a non-self-transmissible plasmid, pD10, encoding the breakdown of 3-chlorobenzoate was shown to survive in a fully functioning laboratory-scale activated-sludge unit (ASU) for more than 8 weeks. The ASU maintained a healthy, diverse protozoal population throughout the experiment, and the introduced strain did not adversely affect the functioning of the unit. Although plasmid pD10 was stably maintained in the host bacterium, the introduced strain did not enhance the degradation of 3-chlorobenzoate in the ASU. When reisolated from the ASU, derivatives of strain UWC1 (pD10) were identified which were able to transfer plasmid pD10 to a recipient strain, P. putida PaW340, indicating the in situ transfer of mobilizing plasmids from the indigenous population to the introduced strain. Results from plate filter matings showed that bacteria present in the activated-sludge population could act as recipients for plasmid pD10 and actively expressed genes carried on the plasmid. Some of these activated-sludge transconjugants gave higher rates of 3-chlorobenzoate breakdown than did strain UWC1(pD10) in batch culture.