A strictly anaerobic bacterium dechlorinating tetrachloroethene (perchloroethylene, PCE) via trichloroethene (TCE) to cis-1,2-dichloroethene (DCE) was isolated from activated sludge with pyruvate plus PCE as energy substrates. The organism, called Dehalospirillum multivorans, is a gram-negative spirillum that does not form spores. The G+C content of the DNA was 41.5 mol%. According to 16S rRNA gene sequence analysis, D. multivorans represents a new genus and a new species belonging to the epsilon subdivision of Proteobacteria. Quinones, cytochromes b and c, and corrinoids were extracted from the cells. D. multivorans grew in defined medium with PCE and H2 as sole energy sources and acetate as carbon source; the growth yield under these conditions was 1.4g of cell protein per mol chloride released. Alternatively to PCE, fumarate and nitrate could serve as electron acceptors; sulfate could not replace fumarate, nitrate, or PCE in this respect. In addition to H2, the organism utilized a variety of electron donors for dechlorination (pyruvate, lactate, ethanol, formate, glycerol). Upon growth on pyruvate plus PCE, the main fermentation products formed were acetatc, lactate, DCE, and H2. At optimal pH (7.3–7.6) and temperature (30°C), and in the presence of pyruvate (20mM) and PCE (160μM), a dechlorination rate of about 50 nmol min-1 (mg cell protein)-1 and a doubling time of about 2.5h were obtained with growing cultures. The ability to reduce PCE to DCE appears to be constitutive under the experimental conditions applied since cultures growing in the absence of PCE for several generations immediately started dechlorination when transferred to a medium containing PCE. The organism may be useful for bioremediation of environments polluted with tetrachloroethene.