The role of proteinaceous amino acids in rhizosphere nutrient mobilization was assessed both experimentally and theoretically. The degree of adsorption onto the soil's solid phase was dependent on both the amino acid species and on soil properties. On addition of amino acids to both soil and freshly precipitated Fe(OH)3, no detectable mobilization of nutrients (K, Na, Ca, Mg, Cu, Mn, Zn, Fe, S, P, Si and Al) was observed, indicating a very low complexation ability of the acidic, neutral and basic amino acids. This was supported by results from a solution equilibria computer model which also predicted low levels of amino acid complexation with solutes present in the soil solution. On comparison with the Fe(OH)3 and equilibria data obtained for the organic acid, citrate, it was concluded that amino acids released into the rhizosphere have a limited role in the direct acquisition of nutrients by plants. The effectiveness of root exudates such as amino acids, phytosiderophores and organic acids in nutrient mobilization from the rhizosphere is discussed with reference to rhizosphere diffusion distances, microbial degradation, rate of complexation and the root's capacity to recapture exudate-metal complexes from the soil.