Pseudomonas putida S12 is well known for its remarkable solvent tolerance. Transcriptomics analysis of this bacterium grown in toluene-containing chemostats revealed the differential expression of 253 genes. As expected, the genes encoding one of the major solvent tolerance mechanisms, the solvent efflux pump SrpABC and its regulatory genes srpRS were heavily up-regulated. The increased energy demand brought about by toluene stress was also reflected in transcriptional changes: genes involved in sugar storage were down-regulated whereas genes involved in energy generation such as isocitrate dehydrogenase and NADH dehydrogenases, were up-regulated in the presence of toluene. Several flagella-related genes were up-regulated and a large group of transport genes were down-regulated. In addition, a novel Pseudomonas-specific gene was identified to be involved in toluene tolerance of P. putida S12. This toluene-repressed gene, trgI, was heavily down-regulated immediately upon toluene exposure in batch cultures. The relationship of trgI with solvent tolerance was confirmed by the increased resistance to toluene shock and toluene induced lysis of trgI knock-out mutants. We propose that down-regulation of trgI plays a role in the first line of defence against solvents. © 2008 Springer.