Several recent reports have indicated that some bacteria may have adapted to the low bioavailability of hydrophobic environmental chemicals and that generalizations about the bioavailability of compounds such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) may be inappropriate. Experimental evidence and theoretical considerations show that the utilization of PAHs requires bioavailability-enhancing mechanisms of the bacteria such as: (1) high-affinity uptake systems, (2) adhesion to the solid substrate, and (3) biosurfactant excretion. We examined possible specific physiological responses of anthracene-degrading Mycobacterium sp. LB501T to poorly water-soluble anthracene in batch cultures, using solid anthracene as a sole carbon source. Mycobacterium sp. LB501T exhibited a high specific affinity for anthracene (a(A)(0)=32,500 1 g(-1) protein h(-1)) and grew as a confluent biofilm on solid anthracene present as sole carbon source. No biofilm formation on anthracene was observed when excess glucose was provided as an additional substrate. This difference could be attributed to a modification of the cell surface of the bacterium. Anthracene-grown cells were significantly more hydrophobic and more negatively charged than glucose-grown cells. In adhesion experiments, anthracene-grown cells adhered 1.5- to 8.0-fold better to hydrophobic Teflon and up to 70-fold better to anthracene surfaces than glucose-grown cells. However, no production of biosurfactants was observed. Our results thus indicate that attachment and biofilm formation may be a specific response of Mycobacterium sp. LB501T to optimize substrate bioavailability.