Recently, a bacterium capable to oxidize ammonium anaerobically at a high rate was identified as novel member of the Planctomycetales (Strous, M., Fuersi, J. A., Kramer, E. H. M., Logemann, S., Muyzer, G., van de Pas-Schoonen, K. T., Webb, R. I., Kufnen, J. G., and Jetten, M. S. M.: Nature 400, 446-449, 1999). Here we investigated the microbial community structure of a trickling filter biofilm with a high anaerobic ammonium oxidation activity. Fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) with a set of nine probes designed for specific identification of the recently described anaerobic ammonium oxidizer demonstrated that only one probe hybridized to bacteria within the biofilm. For phylogenetic characterization of putative biofilm anaerobic ammonium oxidizers a full-cycle 16S rDNA approach was performed by using a Planctomycetales-specific forward primer for PCR amplification. Of the twenty-five 16S rDNA fragments (1364 bp in length) amplified from the biofilm, nine were affiliated to the Planctomycetales. Comparative analysis showed that these sequences were more than 98.9% similar to each other but only distantly related to the previously recognized anaerobic ammonium oxidizer (below 91% similarity) and all other organisms represented in public 16S rRNA databases (similarities of below 79%). The retrieved sequences and the previously recognized anaerobic ammonium oxidizer represent two well-separated groups of a deep-branching lineage within the Planctomycetales. Quantitative FISH analysis with a newly designed specific probe showed that the novel bacterium, provisionally classified as "Candidatus Kuenenia stuttgartiensis" constituted the dominant fraction of the biofilm bacteria. In situ probing revealed that ammonia-oxidizing bacteria of the beta-subclass of Proteobacteria were also present, albeit in significant smaller amounts, within the anoxic biofilm. Comparative sequence analysis of a stretch of the gene encoding ammonia-monooxygenase (amoA) demonstrated the occurrence of the DNA of at least three different populations of beta-subclass ammonia oxidizers within the biofilm.