Incubation of anoxic salt marsh sediment slurries with 10 mM As(V) resulted in the disappearance over time of the As(V) in conjunction with its recovery as As(III). No As(V) reduction to As(III) occurred in heat- sterilized or formalin-killed controls or in live sediments incubated in air. The rate of As(V) reduction in slurries was enhanced by addition of the electron donor lactate, H2, or glucose, whereas the respiratory inhibitor/uncoupler dinitrophenol, rotenone, or 2-heptyl-4-hydroxyquinoline N-oxide blocked As(V) reduction. As(V) reduction was also inhibited by tungstate but not by molybdate, sulfate, or phosphate. Nitrate inhibited As(V) reduction by its action as a preferred respiratory electron acceptor rather than as a structural analog of As(V). Nitrate-respiring sediments could reduce As(V) to As(III) once all the nitrate was removed. Chloramphenicol blocked the reduction of As(V) to As(III) in nitrate- respiring sediments, suggesting that nitrate and arsenate were reduced by separate enzyme systems. Oxidation of [2-14C]acetate to 14CO2 by salt marsh and freshwater sediments was coupled to As(V). Collectively, these results show that reduction of As(V) in sediments proceeds by a dissimilatory process. Bacterial sulfate reduction was completely inhibited by As(V) as well as by As(III).