Physicochemical and microbiological characterization of anoxic sediments taken from seven highly polluted sites of the Marmara Sea was carried out. The 16S rRNA based microbial community structure analyses were performed using domain-specific PCR followed by denaturant gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) and sequencing of characteristic bands. The results showed that the microbial communities in these sediments were diverse and evenly distributed. Relating the prokaryotic and geochemical variables through statistical tools revealed that the microbial diversity in the sediments significantly related to depth, and S, Mn and Fe content of the sediments. Fermentative bacteria, denitrifying bacteria and hydrogenotrophic methanogens were dominant whereas sulfate reducing bacteria were absent in the DGGE patterns. This unusual microbial community structure implied that the newly discovered anaerobic methane oxidation coupled to denitrification process may occur in these subseafloor environments. (C) 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.