Structural and regulatory genes involved in the synthesis of antimicrobial metabolites are essential for the biocontrol activity of fluorescent pseudomonads and, in principle, amenable to genetic engineering for strain improvement. An eventual large-scale release of such bacteria raises the question of whether such genes also contribute to the persistence and dissemination of the bacteria in soil ecosystems. Pseudomonas fluorescens wild-type strain CHA0 protects plants against a variety of fungal diseases and produces several antimicrobial metabolites. The regulatory gene gacA globally controls antibiotic production and is crucial for disease suppression in CHA0. This gene also regulates the production of extracellular protease and phospholipase. The contribution of gacA to survival and vertical translocation of CHA0 in soil microcosms of increasing complexity was studied in coinoculation experiments with the wild type and a gacA mutant which lacks antibiotics and some exoenzymes. Both strains were marked with spontaneous resistance to rifampin. In a closed system with sterile soil, strain CHA0 and the gacA mutant multiplied for several weeks, whereas these strains declined exponentially in nonsterile soil of different Swiss origins. The gacA mutant was less persistent in nonrhizosphere raw soil than was the wild type, but no competitive disadvantage when colonizing the rhizosphere and roots of wheat was found in the particular soil type and during the period studied. Vertical translocation was assessed after strains had been applied to undisturbed, long (60-cm) or short (20-cm) soil columns, both planted with wheat. A smaller number of cells of the gacA mutant than of the wild type were detected in the percolated water and in different depths of the soil column. Single-strain inoculation gave similar results in all microcosms tested. We conclude that mutation in a single regulatory gene involved in antibiotic and exoenzyme synthesis can affect the survival of P. fluorescens more profoundly in unplanted soil than in the rhizosphere.