A strictly anaerobic bacterium, strain PCE1, was isolated from a tetrachloroethene-dechlorinating enrichment culture. Cells of the bacterium were motile curved rods, with approximately four lateral flagella. They possessed a gram-positive type of cell wall and contained cytochrome c. Optimum growth occurred at pH 7.2-7.8 and 34-38 degrees C. The organism grew with L-lactate, pyruvate, butyrate, formate, succinate, or ethanol as electron donors, using either tetrachloroethene, 2-chlorophenol, 2,4,6-trichlorophenol, 3-chloro-4-hydroxy-phenylacetate, sulfite, thiosulfate, or fumarate as electron acceptors. Strain PCE1 also grew fermentatively with pyruvate as the sole substrate. L-Lactate and pyruvate were oxidized to acetate. Tetrachloroethene was reductively dechlorinated to trichloroethene and small amounts ( 5%) of cis-1,2-dichloroethene and trans-1,2-dichloroethene. Chlorinated phenolic compounds were dechlorinated specifically at the ortho-position. On the basis of 16S rRNA sequence analysis, the organism was identified as a species within the genus Desulfitobacterium, which until now only contained the chlorophenol-dechlorinating bacterium, Desulfitobacterium dehalogenans.