It was found that S. meliloti strain SmA818, which is cured of pSymA, could not grow on defined medium containing only formate and bicarbonate as carbon sources. Growth experiments showed that Rm1021 was capable of formate/bicarbonate-dependent growth, suggesting that it was capable of autotrophic-type growth. The annotated genome of S. meliloti Rm1021 contains three formate dehydrogenase genes. A systematic disruption of each of the three formate dehydrogenase genes, as well as the genes encoding determinants of the Calvin-Benson-Bassham, cycle was carried out to determine which of these determinants played a role in growth on this defined medium. The results showed that S. meliloti is capable of formate-dependent autotrophic growth. Formate-dependent autotrophic growth is dependent on the presence of the chromosomally located fdsABCDG operon, as well as the cbb operon carried by pSymB. Growth was also dependent on the presence of either of the two triose-phosphate isomerase genes (tpiA or tpiB) that are found in the genome. In addition, it was found that fdoGHI carried by pSymA encodes a formate dehydrogenase that allows Rm1021 to carry out formate-dependent respiration. Taken together, the data allow us to present a model of how S. meliloti can grow on defined medium containing only formate and bicarbonate as carbon sources.