A Flavobacterium sp. that mineralizes pentachlorophenol degrades some, but not all, of the other chlorinated phenols. Whole-cell 31P nuclear magnetic resonance was used to compare and observe transmembrane pH gradients and nucleotide pools in the Flavobacterium sp. and Escherichia coli after pentachlorophenol and 3,4,5-trichlorophenol were added to the cell suspensions. The data suggest that those chlorinated phenols which are not degraded by the Flavobacterium sp. may be resistant to degradation because they act as proton dissipators.