Xanthobacter flavus 14p1 was isolated from sludge of the river Mulde by selective enrichment with 1,4-dichlorobenzene as the sole source of carbon and energy. The bacterium did not use other aromatic or chloroaromatic compounds as growth substrates. During growth on 1,4-dichlorobenzene, stoichiometric amounts of chloride ions were released. Degradation products of 1,4-dichlorobenzene were identified by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry analysis. 3,6-Dichloro-cis-1,2-dihydroxycyclohexa-3,5-diene and 3,6-dichlorocatechol were isolated from culture fluid. 2,5-Dichloromuconic acid and 2-chloromaleylacetic acid as well as the decarboxylation product 2-chloroacetoacrylic acid were identified after enzymatic conversion of 3,6-dichlorocatechol by cell extract. 1,4-Dichlorobenzene dioxygenase, dihydrodiol dehydrogenase, and catechol 1,2-dioxygenase activity were induced in cells grown on 1,4-dichlorobenzene. The results demonstrate that 1,4-dichlorobenzene degradation is initiated by dioxygenation and that ring opening proceeds via ortho cleavage.