Benzoyl-coenzyme A (CoA) reductases (BCRs) are key enzymes in the anaerobic degradation of aromatic compounds and catalyse the reductive dearomatization of benzoyl-CoA to cyclohexa-1,5-dienoyl-1-carboxyl-CoA. Class I BCRs are ATP-dependent FeS enzymes, whereas class II BCRs are supposed to be ATP-independent and contain W, FeS clusters, and most probably selenocysteine. The active site components of a putative eight subunit class II BCR, BamBCDEFGHI, were recently characterized in Geobacter metallireducens. In this organism bamB was identified as structural gene for the W-containing active site subunit; bamF was predicted to code for a selenocysteine containing electron transfer subunit. In this work the occurrence and expression of BCRs in a number of anaerobic, aromatic compound degrading model microorganisms was investigated with a focus on the BamB and BamF components. Benzoate-induced class II BCR in vitro activities were determined in the soluble protein fraction in all obligately anaerobic bacteria tested. Where applicable, the results were in agreement with Western blot analysis using BamB targeting antibodies. By establishing a specific bamB targeting PCR assay, bamB homologues were identified in all tested obligately anaerobic bacteria with the capacity to degrade aromatic compounds; a number of bamB sequences from Gram-negative/positive sulfate-reducing bacteria were newly sequenced. In several organisms at least two bamB paralogues per genome were identified; however, in nearly all cases only one of them was transcribed during growth on an aromatic substrate. These benzoate-induced bamB genes are proposed to code for the active site subunit of class II BCRs; the major part of them group into a phylogenetic subcluster within the bamB homologues. Results from in silico analysis suggested that all class II BCRs contain selenocysteine in the BamF, and in many cases also in the BamE subunit. The results obtained indicate that the distribution of the two classes of BCRs in anaerobic bacteria appears to be strictly ruled by the available free energy from the oxidation of the aromatic carbon source rather than by phylogenetic relationships.