From various oxic or anoxic habitats several strains of bacteria were isolated which in the absence of molecular oxygen oxidized phenol to CO2 with nitrate as the terminal electron acceptor. All strains grew in defined mineral salts medium; two of them were further characterized. The bacteria were facultatively anaerobic Gram-negative rods; metabolism was strictly oxidative with molecular oxygen, nitrate, or nitrite as electron acceptor. The isolates were tentatively identified as pseudomonads. Besides phenol many other benzene derivatives like cresols or aromatic acids were anaerobically oxidized in the presence of nitrate. While benzoate or 4-hydroxybenzoate was degraded both anaerobically and aerobically, phenol was oxidized under anaerobic conditions only. Reduced alicyclic compounds were not degraded. Preliminary evidence is presented that the first reaction in anaerobic phenol oxidation is phenol carboxylation to 4-hydroxybenzoate.