Previously performed studies have shown that Pseudomonas putida CZ1 biomass can bind an appreciable amount of Cu(II) and Zn(II) ions from aqueous solutions. The mechanisms of Cu- and Zn-binding by P. putida CZ1 were ascertained by chemical modifications of the biomass followed by Fourier transform infrared and X-ray absorption spectroscopic analyses of the living or nonliving cells. A dramatic decrease in Cu(II)- and Zn(II)-binding resulted after acidic methanol esterification of the nonliving cells, indicating that carboxyl functional groups play an important role in the binding of metal to the biomaterial. X-ray absorption spectroscopy was used to determine the speciation of Cu ions bound by living and nonliving cells, as well as to elucidate which functional groups were involved in binding of the Cu ions. The X-ray absorption near-edge structure spectra analysis showed that the majority of the Cu was bound in both samples as Cu(II). The fitting results of Cu K-edge extended X-ray absorption fine structure spectra showed that N/O ligands dominated in living and nonliving cells. Therefore, by combining different techniques, our results indicate that carboxyl functional groups are the major ligands responsible for the metal binding in P. putida CZ1.