Two bacterial strains, KMM 227T and 231T, were isolated from seawater samples collected from the north-western Pacific Ocean at a depth of 4000-5000 m and were characterized using polyphasic taxonomy. Both were Gram-negative, psychrotolerant, heterotrophic, aerobic and required NaCl for growth (0.6-15.0%). The temperature for growth was 4-30 degrees C. Both strains were rod-shaped, with a single flagellum. However, strain KMM 231T revealed a single long fimbrium. Cellular fatty acids detected in the isolates were predominantly odd-numbered and iso-branched, with 15 and 17 carbons (ca. 70%). Also present were saturated and monounsaturated straight-chain fatty acids. Results of phylogenetic analyses, employing three tree-making methods, strongly indicated that the two strains formed a distinct lineage within a clade containing the genera Alteromonas, Colwellia and Pseudoalteromonas, in the gamma-Proteobacteria. The two strains shared 16S rDNA sequence similarity of 96.9% and genomic DNA relatedness of 27%; the latter was determined by dot-blot hybridization. The strains were differentiated by the presence of fimbria, production of chitinase, ability to grow on 15% NaCl and BIOLOG profiles. Given the polyphasic evidence accumulated in this study, it is proposed that the two deep-sea isolates be classified in the genus Idiomarina gen. nov., as Idiomarina abyssalis sp. nov. (type strain is KMM 227T) and Idiomarina zobellii sp. nov. (type strain is KMM 231T).