Reductive dehalogenation of tetrachloroethene (PCE), trichloroethene (TCE), cis-1,2-dichloroethene (DCE), and vinyl chloride (VC) was examined in four cultures containing Dehalococcoides-like microorganisms. Dechlorination and growth kinetics were compared using a Monod growth-rate model for multiple electron acceptor usage with competition. Included were the Victoria mixed culture containing Dehalococcoides species strain VS (from Victoria, TX), the mixed culture KB-1/VC (from southern Ontario), the Pinellas mixed culture (from Pinellas, FL), and D. ethenogenes strain 195. All cultures, with the exception of D. ethenogenes strain 195, grew with VC as catabolic electron acceptor. A dilution method was developed that allows a valid comparison to be made of dehalogenating kinetics between different mixed cultures. Using this procedure, maximum growth rates on VC were found to be similar for strain VS and KB-1/VC (0.42-0.49 +/- 0.02 d(-1)) but slower for the Pinellas culture (0.28 +/- 0.01 d(-1)). The 16S rRNA gene sequences were determined to ensure that no cross contamination between cultures had occurred. Following enrichment of the VC dechlorinating microorganisms on VC, the cultures were amended with DCE, TCE, or PCE. The three mixed cultures failed to dechlorinate PCE or did so very slowly. However, the dilution technique indicated that all experienced growth on TCE and DCE as well as on VC. Maximum growth rates on DCE alone were quite similar (0.43-0.46 d(-1)), while the Pinellas culture grew faster on TCE alone (0.49 d(-1)) than did the other two mixed cultures (0.33-0.35 d(-1)). Half-velocity and inhibition constants for growth on TCE were also determined for the three mixed cultures; both constants were found to be essentially equal and the same for the different cultures, varying between only 8.6 and 10.5 microM. The ability of the strain VS, KB-1/VC, and Pinellas cultures to utilize TCE rapidly with conversion to ethene is quite different from that of any other reported microorganism. It was separately confirmed with more traditional cell-counting techniques that strain VS coupled TCE, as well as DCE and VC, utilization with growth. This is the first report of an organism obtaining energy for growth through every step in the reduction of TCE to ethene. Also, as suggested by the dilution technique, the dehalogenating organisms in the KB-1/VC and Pinellas cultures appear to obtain growth from TCE utilization as well. Such ability to grow while dehalogenating TCE to ethene will be an important advantage for their use in bioaugmentation.