Gabaculine (3-amino-2,3-dihydrobenzoic acid) was an inhibitor of in vivo chlorophyll biosynthesis in lima bean (Phaseolus lunatus L. cv Henderson). When applied to roots of 9-day-old plants, 10 micromolar gabaculine was sufficient to terminate biosynthesis of new chlorophyll. The trifoliolate leaves which emerged after gabaculine treatment were yellow. Gabaculine-treated plants had slightly lower dry weights; yet, overall plant size showed very little change. Chlorophyll fluorescence induction kinetics and CO(2) exchange measurements were used to monitor both immediate and long-term effects of gabaculine on photosynthesis. A lowered rate of the decline from the maximum level of fluorescence was observed after 10 hours for nitrate-supplemented plants, and all treated plants showed a slightly increased level of original fluorescence after 6 days. No change was observed in the rate of photosynthesis by unifoliolate leaves. The trifoliolate leaves, though not able to photosynthesize, were able to continue respiration. This suggested that heme biosynthesis for mitochondrial cytochromes was not abolished. In untreated lima bean, root nodules were induced by Rhizobium sp. 127E15. Following gabaculine treatment, root nodules formed, but were largely ineffective in nitrogen fixation. Nodule dry weight, nitrogen fixation activity, and leghemoglobin content were decreased by gabaculine.