Nitrogen uptake, distribution and remobilization in the vegetative and reproductive parts of the plant were studied in bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) cultivars Negro Argel and Rio Tibagi inoculated with either Rhizobium strain C05 or 127 K-17. Greenhouse grown plants were supplied with 2.5 mg N (plant)−1 day−1 as KNO3 or K15NO3 and the relative contribution to total plant nitrogen of mineral and symbiotically fixed nitrogen was determined. Control plants included those entirely dependent on fixed nitrogen as well as uninoculated plants supplied with 10 mg N (plant)−1 day−1. No differences were observed between inoculated treatments in total nitrate reductase activity and in the amount of mineral nitrogen absorbed, but there were considerable differences in the contribution of fixed nitrogen. Nitrogen fixation supplied from 58 to 72% of the total nitrogen assimilated during the bean growth cycle and the symbiotic combinations fixed most of their nitrogen (66 to 78% of total nitrogen) after flowering. Maximum uptake of mineral nitrogen was in the 15-day-period between flowering and mid-podfill (47 to 58% of total mineral nitrogen). Nitrogen partitioning varied with Rhizobium strains, and inoculation with strain C05 increased the nitrogen harvest index of both cultivars. Applied mineral nitrogen had a variable effect and in cv. Negro Argel was more beneficial to vegetative growth, resulting in smaller nitrogen harvest indices. Seed yield was not increased by heavy nitrogen fertilization. In contrast, cv. Rio Tibagi always benefited from nitrogen applications. Among the various nitrogen sources supplying the grain, the most important one was the fixed nitrogen translocated directly from nodules or after a rapid transfer through leaves, representing from 60 to 64% of the total nitrogen incorporated into the seeds.