The cometabolic degradation of trichloroethene (TCE) by Rhodococcus sp. L4 was limited by the loss of enzyme activity during TCE transformation. This problem was overcome by repeated addition of inducing substrates, such as cumene, limonene, or cumin aldehyde, to the cells. Alternatively, Rhodococcus sp. L4 was immobilized on plant materials which contain those inducers in their essential oils. Cumin seeds were the most suitable immobilizing material, and the immobilized cells tolerated up to 68 muM TCE and degraded TCE continuously. The activity of immobilized cells, which had been inactivated partially during TCE degradation, could be reactivated by incubation in mineral salts medium without TCE. These findings demonstrate that immobilization of Rhodococcus sp. L4 on plant materials rich in essential oils is a promising method for efficient cometabolic degradation of TCE.