Previous studies have demonstrated that naphthalene and other polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) can be anaerobically oxidized with the reduction of sulfate in PAH-contaminated marine harbor sediments, including those in San Diego Bay. In order to learn more about the microorganisms that might be involved in anaerobic naphthalene degradation, the microorganisms associated with naphthalene degradation in San Diego Bay sediments were evaluated. A dilution-to-extinction enrichment culture strategy, designed to recover the most numerous culturable naphthalene-degrading sulfate reducers, resulted in the enrichment of microorganisms with 16S rDNA sequences in the d-Proteobacteria, which were closely related to a previously described pure culture of a naphthalene-degrading sulfate reducer, NaphS2, isolated from sediments in Germany. A more traditional enrichment culture approach, expected to enrich for the fastest-growing naphthalene-degrading sulfate reducers, yielded 16S rDNA sequences closely related to those found in the dilution-to-extinction enrichments and NaphS2. Analysis of 16S rDNA sequences in sediments from two sites in San Diego Bay that had been adapted for rapid naphthalene degradation by continual amendment with low levels of naphthalene suggested that the microbial community composition in the amended sediments differed from that present in the unamended sediments from the same sites. Most significantly, 6-8% of the sequences recovered from 100 clones of each of the naphthalene-amended sediments were closely related to the 16S rDNA sequences in the enrichment cultures as well as the sequence of the pure culture, NaphS2. No sequences in this NaphS2 phylotype were recovered from the sediments that were not continually exposed to naphthalene. A PCR primer, which was designed based on these phylotype sequences, was used to amplify additional 16S rDNA sequences belonging to the NaphS2 phylotype from PAH-degrading sediments from Island End River (Boston), MA, and Liepaja Harbor, Latvia. Closely related sequences were also recovered from highly contaminated sediment from Tampa Bay, FL. These results suggest that microorganisms closely related to NaphS2 might be involved in naphthalene degradation in harbor sediments. This finding contrasts with the frequent observation that the environmentally relevant microorganisms cannot be readily recovered in pure culture and suggests that further study of the physiology of NaphS2 may provide insights into factors controlling the rate and extent of naphthalene degradation in marine harbor sediments.