The oxidation of 9,10-dihydroanthracene and 9,10-dihydrophenanthrene was examined with mutant and recombinant strains expressing naphthalene dioxygenase from Pseudomonas putida (NCIB 9816.4. Salicylate-induced cells of P. putida strain 9816/11 and isopropylthiogalactopyranoside-induced cells of Escherichia coli JM109(DE3)(pDTG141) oxidized 9,10-dihydroanthracene to (+)-cis-1R,2S)-1,2-dihydroxy-1,2,9,10-tetrahydroanthracene (> 95% relative yield; > 95% enantiomeric excess) as the major product. 9-Hydroxy-9,10-dihydroanthracene (< 5% relative yield) was a minor product formed by both organisms. The same cells oxidized 9,10-dihydrophenanthrene to (+)-cis-(3S,4R)-3,4-dihydroxy-3,4,9,10-tetrahydrophenanthrene (70% relative yield; > 95% enantiomeric excess) and (+)-(S)-9-hydroxy-9,10-dihydrophenanthrene (30% relative yield). The major reaction catalyzed by naphthalene dioxygenase with 9,10-dihydroanthracene and 9,10-dihydrophenanthrene was stereospecific dihydroxylation in which both of the previously undescribed cis-diene diols were of R configuration at the benzylic center adjacent to the bridgehead carbon atom. The results suggest that for benzocylic substrates, the location of benzylic carbons influences the type of reaction(s) catalyzed by naphthalene dioxygenase.