Dichloromethane (DCM) is efficiently utilized as a carbon and energy source by aerobic, Gram-negative, facultative methylotrophic bacteria. It also serves as a sole carbon and energy source for a nitrate-respiring Hyphomicrobium sp. and for a strictly anaerobic co-culture of a DCM-fermenting bacterium and an acetogen. The first step of DCM utilization by methylotrophs is catalyzed by DCM dehalogenase which, in a glutathione-dependent substitution reaction, forms inorganic chloride and S-chloromethyl glutathione. This unstable intermediate decomposes to glutathione, inorganic chloride and formaldehyde, a central metabolite of methylotrophic growth. Genetic studies on DCM utilization are beginning to shed some light on questions pertaining to the evolution of DCM dehalogenases and on the regulation of DCM dehalogenase expression. DCM dehalogenase belongs to the glutathione S-transferase supergene family. Analysis of the amino acid sequences of two bacterial DCM dehalogenases reveals 56% identity, and comparison of these sequences to those of glutathione S-transferases indicates a closer relationship to class Theta eukaryotic glutathione S-transferases than to a number of bacterial glutathione S-transferases whose sequences have recently become available. dcmA, the structural gene of the highly substrate-inducible DCM dehalogenase, is carried in most DCM utilizing methylotrophs on large plasmids. In Methylobacterium sp. DM4 its expression is governed by dcmR, a regulatory gene located upstream of dcmA, dcmR encodes a trans-acting factor which negatively controls DCM dehalogenase formation at the transcriptional level. Our working model thus assumes that the dcmR product is a repressor which, in the absence of DCM, binds to the promoter region of dcmA and thereby inhibits initiation of transcription.