We characterized the gene required to initiate the degradation of 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D) by the soil bacterium Burkholderia sp. strain TFD6, which hybridized to the tfdA gene of the canonical 2,4-D catabolic plasmid pJP4 under low-stringency conditions. Cleavage of the ether bond of 2,4-D by cell extracts of TFD6 proceeded by an (alpha)-ketoglutarate-dependent reaction, characteristic of TfdA (F. Fukumori and R. P. Hausinger, J. Bacteriol. 175:2083-2086, 1993). The TFD6 tfdA gene was identified in a recombinant plasmid which complemented a tfdA transposon mutant of TFD6 created by chromosomal insertion of Tn5. The plasmid also expressed TfdA activity in Escherichia coli DH5(alpha), as evidenced by enzyme assays with cell extracts. Sequence analysis of the tfdA gene and flanking regions from strain TFD6 showed 99.5% similarity to a tfdA gene cloned from the chromosome of a different Burkholderia species (strain RASC) isolated from a widely separated geographical area. This chromosomal gene has 77.2% sequence identity to tfdA from plasmid pJP4 (Y. Suwa, W. E. Holben, and L. J. Forney, abstr. Q-403, in Abstracts of the 94th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology 1994.). The tfdA homologs cloned from strains TFD6 and RASC are the first chromosomally encoded 2,4-D catabolic genes to be reported. The occurrence of highly similar tfdA genes in different bacterial species suggests that this chromosomal gene can be horizontally transferred.