Genetic construction of recombinant strains with expanded degradative abilities may be useful for bioremedation of recalcitrant compounds, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Some degradative genes have been found either on conjugative plasmids or on transposons, which would facilitate their genetic transfer. The catabolic pathway for the total degradation of PCBs is encoded by two different sets of genes that are not normally found in the same organism. ThebphABCD genes normally reside on the chromosome and encode for the four enzymes involved in the production of benzoate and chlorobenzoates from the respective catabolism of biphenyl and chlorobiphenyls. The genes encoding for chlorobenzoate catabolism have been found on both plasmids and the chromosome, often in association with transposable elements. Ring fission of chlorobiphenyls and chlorobenzoates involves themeta-fission pathway (3-phenylcatechol 2,3-dioxygenase) and theortho-fission pathway (chlorocatechol 1,2-dioxygenase), respectively. As the catecholic intermediates of both pathways are frequently inhibitory to each other, incompatibilities result. Presently, all hybrid strains constructed by in vivo matings metabolize simple chlorobiphenyls through complementary pathways by comprising thebph, benzoate, and chlorocatechol genes of parental strains. No strains have yet been verified which are able to utilize PCBs having at least one chlorine on each ring as growth substrates. The possible incompatibilities of hybrid pathways are evaluated with respect to product toxicity, and the efficiency of both in vivo and in vitro genetic methods for the construction of recombinant strains able to degrade PCBs is discussed.