The connection between the physiological control of the ς54-dependent Pu promoter of the TOL plasmid pWW0 of Pseudomonas putida and the stringent response mediated by the alarmone (p)ppGpp has been examined in vivo an in vitro. To this end, the key regulatory elements of the system were faithfully reproduced in an Escherichia coli strain and assayed as lacZ fusions in various genetic backgrounds lacking (p)ppGpp or overexpressing relA. Neither the responsiveness of Pu to 3-methyl benzylalcohol mediated by its cognate activator XylR nor the down-regulation of the promoter by rapid growth were affected in relA/spoT strains to an extent which could account for the known physiological control that governs this promoter. Overexpression of the relA gene [predicted to increase intracellullar (p)ppGpp levels] did, however, cause a significant gain in Pu activity. Since such a gain might be the result of indirect effects, we resorted to an in vitro transcription system to assay directly the effect of ppGpp on the transcriptional machinery. Although we did observe a significant increase in Pu performance through a range of ς54-RNAP concentrations, such an increase never exceeded twofold. The difference between these results and the behavior of the related Po promoter of the phenol degradation plasmid pVI150 could be traced to the different promoter sequences, which may dictate the type of metabolic signals recruited for the physiological control of ς54-systems.