We have isolated and characterized a strain of Alcaligenes eurtrophus, designated H850, that rapidly degrades a broad and unusual spectrum of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) including many tetra- and pentachlorobiphenyls and several hexachlorobiphenyls. This strain, which was isolated from PCB-containing dredge spoils by enrichment on biphenyl, grows well on biphenyl and 2-chlorobiphenyl but poorly on 3- and 4-chlorobiphenyl. Capillary gas-chromatographic analysis showed that biphenyl-grown resting cells of H850 degraded the components of 38 of the 41 largest peaks of Aroclor 1242 and 15 of the 44 largest peaks of Aroclor 1254, resulting in an overall reduction of PCBs by 81% for Aroclor 1242 (10 ppm) and 35% for Aroclor 1254 (10 ppm) in 2 days. Furthermore, H850 metabolized the predominantly ortho-substituted PCB congeners that resulted from the environmental transformation of the more highly chlorinated congeners of Aroclor 1242 by the upper Hudson River anaerobic meta-, para-dechlorination agent system C (J. F. Brown, R. E. Wagner, Jr., D. L. Bedard, M. J. Brennan, J. C. Carnahan, R. J. May, and J. J. Tofflemire, Northeast Environ. Sci. 3:167-179, 1984). The congener selectivity patterns indicate that a two-step process consisting of anaerobic dechlorination followed by oxidation by H850 can effectively degrade all of the congeners in Aroclor 1242 and possibly all those in Aroclor 1254.