A gram-negative, strictly anaerobic, motile vibrio was isolated from a selenate-respiring enrichment culture. The isolate, designated strain SES-3, grew by coupling the oxidation of lactate to acetate plus CO2 with the concomitant reduction of selenate to selenite or of nitrate to ammonium. No growth was observed on sulfate or selenite, but cell suspensions readily reduced selenite to elemental selenium (Se0). Hence, SES-3 can carry out a complete reduction of selenate to Se0. Washed cell suspensions of selenate- grown cells did not reduce nitrate, and nitrate-grown cells did not reduce selenate, indicating that these reductions are achieved by separate inducible enzyme systems. However, both nitrate-grown and selenate-grown cells have a constitutive ability to reduce selenite or nitrite. The oxidation of [14C]lactate to 14CO2 coupled to the reduction of selenate or nitrate by cell suspensions was inhibited by CCCP (carbonyl cyanide m- chlorophenylhydrazone), cyanide, and azide. High concentrations of selenite (5 mM) were readily reduced to Se0 by selenate-grown cells, but selenite appeared to block the synthesis of pyruvate dehydrogenase. Tracer experiments with [75Se]selenite indicated that cell suspensions could achieve a rapid and quantitative reduction of selenite to Se0. This reduction was totally inhibited by sulfite, partially inhibited by selenate or nitrite, but unaffected by sulfate or nitrate. Cell suspensions could reduce thiosulfate, but not sulfite, to sulfide. These results suggest that reduction of selenite to Se0 may proceed, in part, by some of the components of a dissimilatory system for sulfur oxyanions.