The effect of long-term elevated soil Pb levels on soil microbiota was studied at a forest site in Norway, where the soil has been severely contaminated with Pb since the last period of glaciation (several thousand years). Up to 10% Pb (total amount, w/w) has been found in the top layer. The microbial community was drastically affected, as judged from changes in the phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) pattern. Specific PLFAs that were high in Pb-enriched soil were branched (especially br17:0 and br18:0), whereas PLFAs common in eukaryotic organisms such as fungi (18:2ω6,9 and 20:4) were low compared with levels at adjacent, uncontaminated sites. Congruent changes in the PLFA pattern were found upon analyzing the culturable part of the bacterial community. The high Pb concentrations in the soil resulted in increased tolerance to Pb of the bacterial community, measured using both thymidine incorporation and plate counts. Furthermore, changes in tolerance were correlated to changes in the community structure. The bacterial community of the most contaminated soils showed higher specific activity (thymidine and leucine incorporation rates) and higher culturability than that of control soils. Fungal colony forming units (CFUs) were 10 times lower in the most Pb-enriched soils, the species composition was widely different from that in control soils, and the isolated fungi had high Pb tolerance. The most commonly isolated fungus in Pb-enriched soils was Tolypocladium inflatum. Comparison of isolates from Pb-enriched soil and isolates from unpolluted soils showed that T. inflatum was intrinsically Pb-tolerant, and that the prolonged conditions with high Pb had not selected for any increased tolerance.