An anaerobic microbial consortium (referred to as ANAS) that reductively dechlorinates trichloroethene (TCE) completely to ethene with the transient production of cisdichloroethene (cDCE) and vinyl chloride was enriched from contaminated soil obtained from Alameda Naval Air Station. ANAS uses lactate as its electron donor and has been functionally stable for over 2 years. Following a brief exposure to oxygen, a subculture (designated VCC) derived from ANAS could dechlorinate TCE only to vinyl chloride with lactate as its electron donor. Three molecular methods were used concurrently to characterize the community structure of ANAS and VCC: clone library construction/clone sequencing, terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP) analysis, and fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) with rRNA probes. The community structure of ANAS did not change significantly over the course of a single feeding/dechlorination cycle, and only minor fluctuations occurred over many feeding cycles spanning the course of 1 year. Clone libraries and T-RFLP analyses suggested that ANAS was dominated by populations belonging to three phylogenetic groups: Dehalococcoides species, Desulfovibrio species, and members of the Clostridiaceae (within the low G + C Gram-positives). FISH results suggest that members of the Cytophaga/Flavobacterium/Bacteroides (CFB) cluster and high G + C Gram-positives (HGCs) were numerically important in ANAS despite their under-representation in the clone libraries. Parallel analyses of VCC samples suggested that Dehalococcoides species and Clostridiaceae were only minor populations in this community. Instead, VCC had increased populations of organisms in the beta and gamma subclasses of the Proteobacteria as well as significant populations of organisms in the CFB cluster. It is possible that symbiotic interactions are occurring between some of ANAS's phylogenetic groups under the enrichment conditions, including interspecies hydrogen transfer from Desulfovibrio species to Dehalococcoides species. However, the nucleic acid-based analyses performed here would need to be supplemented with chemical species data in order to test any hypotheses about functional roles of various community members. Additionally, these results suggest that an organism outside the Dehalococcoides genus may be capable of dechlorinating cDCE to vinyl chloride.