Although anaerobic biodegradation of di-n-butyl phthalic acid ester (DBP) has been studied over the past decade, only little is known about the microorganisms involved in the biological anaerobic degradation pathways. The aim of this work is to characterize the microbial community dynamics in enrichment cultures degrading phthalic acid esters under methanogenic conditions. A selection pressure was applied by adding DBP at 10 and 200 mg L(-1) in semi-continuous anaerobic reactors. The microbial dynamics were monitored using single strand conformation polymorphism (SSCP). While only limited abiotic losses were observed in the sterile controls (20-22%), substantial DBP biodegradation was found in the enrichment cultures (90-99%). In addition, significant population changes were observed. The dominant bacterial species in the DBP-degrading cultures was affiliated to Soehngenia saccharolytica, a microorganism described previously as an anaerobic benzaldehyde degrader. Within the archaeal community, there was a shift between two different species of the genus Methanosaeta sp., indicating a highly specific impact of DBP or degradation products on archaeal species. RNA-directed probes were designed from SSCP sequences, and FISH observations confirmed the dominance of S. saccharolytica, and indicated floccular microstructures, likely providing favourable conditions for DBP degradation.