Genome scanning of Corynebacterium glutamicum ATCC13032 revealed the presence of five different genes encoding enzymes belonging to three putative trehalose biosynthesis pathways (OtsAB, TreYZ, TreS). The function of the different pathways and of trehalose as an osmoprotectant was studied by characterizing several strains defective for individual trehalose biosynthetic routes. Trehalose synthesis was shown to increase upon hyperosmotic conditions. Cytoplasmic trehalose levels varied considerably depending on kind and accessibility of carbon and nitrogen sources. In contrast to other organisms, osmoregulated trehalose synthesis in C. glutamicum is mediated by the TreYZ and not by the OtsAB pathway. Irrespective of their significance for the osmotic response, otsA and treS were upregulated at the transcriptional level after hyperosmotic shock. In vivo, TreS-mediated trehalose synthesis only occurred if maltose was used as the carbon source. In vitro, TreS catalysed the conversion of maltose into trehalose and, conversely, trehalose into maltose. As the reaction seems to be near equilibrium, TreS appears to be important for trehalose degradation rather than synthesis because a 1000-fold excess of trehalose to maltose was detected in the cytoplasm. Also, evidence is given that both the OtsAB and the TreYZ pathways are involved, but not essential, in supplying trehalose for mycolic acid biosynthesis.