Graminaceous plant species acquire soil iron by the release of phytosiderophores and subsequent uptake of iron(III)-phytosiderophore complexes. As plant species differ in their ability for phytosiderophore hydroxylation prior to release, an electrophoretic method was set up to determine whether hydroxylation affects the net charge of iron(III)-phytosiderophore complexes, and thus chelate stability. At pH 7.0, non-hydroxylated (deoxymugineic acid) and hydroxylated (mugineic acid; epi-hydroxymugineic acid) phytosiderophores form single negatively charged iron(III) complexes, in contrast to iron(III)-nicotianamine. As the degree of phytosiderophore hydroxylation increases, the corresponding iron(III) complex was found to be less readily protonated. Measured pKa values of the amino groups and calculated free iron(III) concentrations in presence of a 10-fold chelator excess were also found to decrease with increasing degree of hydroxylation, confirming that phytosiderophore hydroxylation protects against acid-induced protonation of the iron(III)-phytosiderophore complex. These effects are almost certainly associated with intramolecular hydrogen bonding between the hydroxyl and amino functions. We conclude that introduction of hydroxyl groups into the phytosiderophore skeleton increases iron(III)-chelate stability in acid environments such as those found in the rhizosphere or the root apoplasm and may contribute to an enhanced iron acquisition.