The aim of this study was to assess the cellular response of the solvent-tolerant Pseudomonas putida S12 to toluene as the single effector. Proteomic analysis (two-dimensional difference-in-gel-electrophoresis) was used to assess the response of P. putida S12 cultured in chemostats. This approach ensures constant growth conditions, both in the presence and absence of toluene. A considerable negative effect of toluene on the cell yield was found. The need for energy in the defence against toluene was reflected by differentially expressed proteins for cell energy management. In toluene-stressed cells the balance between proton motive force (PMF) enforcing and dissipating systems was shifted. NAD(P)H generating systems were upregulated whereas the major proton-driven system, ATP synthase, was downregulated. Other differentially expressed proteins were identified: outer membrane proteins, transport proteins, stress-related proteins and translation-related proteins. In addition, a protein with no assigned function was found. This study yielded a more detailed view of the effect of toluene on the intracellular energy management of P. putida S12 and several novel leads have been obtained for further targeted investigations. © 2006 The Authors.