Depth-related changes in whole-community structure were evaluated in a coastal marine sediment using a molecular fingerprinting method, terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP) analysis, and a chemotaxonomic technique (quinone profiling). Dendrograms derived from both T-RFLP analysis and quinone profiling indicated a significant variation in microbial community structure between the 0-2 cm layer and deeper layers. This corresponded to the dramatic change in the redox potential, acid-volatile sulphide-sulphur and bacterial numbers observed at 0-2 cm and 2-4 cm depths. A significant change in the number of terminal restriction fragments (T-RFs) was also detected at this transition depth. However, the change in major T-RFs with depth was not seen in electropherograms. The population changes were primarily variations in minor ribotypes. Most quinone homologues were detected at all depths, although the quinone composition changed with depth. Therefore, quinone profiling also suggested that the depth-related variation was primarily attributable to minor bacterial groups rather than change in the major population structure. 16S rDNA clone library analysis revealed that clones belonging to the genera Vibrio and Serratia predominated as major bacterial groups at all depths. Our data suggested that the sediment community might result from sedimentation effects of sinking particles. Overall, our results demonstrated that the combined methods of T-RFLP analysis and quinone profiling were effective for assessing depth-related microbial populations.