We have identified and characterized the D-xylose transport system of Lactobacillus pentosus. Uptake of D-xylose was not driven by the proton motive force generated by malolactic fermentation and required D-xylose metabolism. The kinetics of D-xylose transport were indicative of a low- affinity facilitated-diffusion system with an apparent K(m) of 8.5 mM and a V(max) of 23 nmol min-1 mg of dry weight-1. In two mutants of L. pentosus defective in the phosphoenolpyruvate:mannose phosphotransferase system, growth on D-xylose was absent due to the lack of D-xylose transport. However, transport of the pentose was not totally abolished in a third mutant, which could be complemented after expression of the L. curvatus manB gene encoding the cytoplasmic EIIB(Man) component of the EII(Man) complex. The EII(Man) complex is also involved in D-xylose transport in L. casei ATCC 393 and L. plantarum 80. These two species could transport and metabolize D-xylose after transformation with plasmids which expressed the D-xylose-catabolizing genes of L. pentosus, xylAB. L. casei and L. plantarum mutants resistant to 2- deoxy-D-glucose were defective in EII(Man) activity and were unable to transport D-xylose when transformed with plasmids containing the xylAB genes. Finally, transport of D-xylose was found to be the rate-limiting step in the growth of L. pentosus and of L. plantarum and L. casei ATCC 393 containing plasmids coding for the D-xylose-catabolic enzymes, since the doubling time of these bacteria on D-xylose was proportional to the level of EII(Man) activity.