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Summary

The fate and persistence of chlorinated organics in the environment have been a concern for the past 50 years. Industrialization and extensive agricultural activities have led to the accumulation of these pollutants in the environment, while their adverse impact on various ecosystems and human health also became evident. This review provides an update on the current knowledge of specialized anaerobic bacteria, namely ‘Dehalococcoides’ spp., which are dedicated to the transformation of various chlorinated organic compounds via reductive dechlorination. Advances in microbiology and molecular techniques shed light into the diversity and functioning of Dehalococcoides spp. in several different locations. Recent genome sequencing projects revealed a large number of genes that are potentially involved in reductive dechlorination. Molecular approaches towards analysis of diversity and expression especially of reductive dehalogenase-encoding genes are providing a growing body of knowledge on biodegradative pathways active in defined pure and mixed cultures as well as directly in the environment. Moreover, several successful field cases of bioremediation strengthen the notion of dedicated degraders such as Dehalococcoides spp. as key players in the restoration of contaminated environments.