The chlororespiring anaerobe Dehalococcoides sp. strain CBDB1 used hexachlorobenzene and pentachlorobenzene as electron acceptors in an energy-conserving process with hydrogen as electron donor. Previous attempts to grow Dehalococcoides sp. strain CBDB1 with hexachlorobenzene or pentachlorobenzene as electron acceptors failed if these compounds were provided as solutions in hexadecane. However, Dehalococcoides sp. strain CBDB1 was able to grow with hexachlorobenzene or pentachlorobenzene when added in crystalline form directly to cultures. Growth of Dehalococcoides sp. strain CBDB1 by dehalorespiration resulted in a growth yield ( Y) of 2.1+/-0.24 g protein/mol Cl(-) released with hexachlorobenzene as electron acceptor; with pentachlorobenzene, the growth yield was 2.9+/-0.15 g/mol Cl(-). Hexachlorobenzene was reductively dechlorinated to pentachlorobenzene, which was converted to a mixture of 1,2,3,5- and 1,2,4,5-tetrachlorobenzene. Formation of 1,2,3,4-tetrachlorobenzene was not detected. The final end-products of hexachlorobenzene and pentachlorobenzene dechlorination were 1,3,5-trichlorobenzene, 1,3- and 1,4-dichlorobenzene, which were formed in a ratio of about 3:2:5. As reported previously, Dehalococcoides sp. strain CBDB1 converted 1,2,3,5-tetrachlorobenzene exclusively to 1,3,5-trichlorobenzene, and 1,2,4,5-tetrachlorobenzene exclusively to 1,2,4-trichlorobenzene. The organism therefore catalyzes two different pathways to dechlorinate highly chlorinated benzenes. In the route leading to 1,3,5-trichlorobenzene, only doubly flanked chlorine substituents were removed, while in the route leading to 1,3-and 1,4-dichlorobenzene via 1,2,4-trichlorobenzene singly flanked chlorine substituents were also removed. Reductive dehalogenase activity measurements using whole cells pregrown with different chlorobenzene congeners as electron acceptors indicated that different reductive dehalogenases might be induced by the different electron acceptors. To our knowledge, this is the first report describing reductive dechlorination of hexachlorobenzene and pentachlorobenzene via dehalorespiration by a pure bacterial culture.