Initial reactions in anaerobic oxidation of ethylbenzene were investigated in a denitrifying bacterium, strain EB1. Cells of strain EB1 mineralized ethylbenzene to CO2 under denitrifying conditions, as demonstrated by conversion of 69% of [14C]ethylbenzene to 14CO2. In anaerobic suspensions of strain EB1 cells metabolizing ethylbenzene, the transient formation and consumption of 1-phenylethanol, acetophenone, and an as yet unidentified compound were observed. On the basis of growth experiments and spectroscopic data, the unknown compound is proposed to be benzoyl acetate. Cell suspension experiments using H2(18)O demonstrated that the hydroxyl group of the first product of anoxic ethylbenzene oxidation, 1-phenylethanol, is derived from water. A tentative pathway for anaerobic ethylbenzene mineralization by strain EB1 is proposed.