Despite extensive research on the bottom-up force of resource availability (e.g., electron donors and acceptors), slow biodegradation rates and stalling at cis-dichloroethene (cDCE) and vinyl chloride continue to be observed in aquifers contaminated with trichloroethene (TCE). The objective of this research was to gauge the impact of the top-down force of protistan predation on TCE biodegradation in laboratory microcosms. When indigenous bacteria from an electron donor-limited TCE-contaminated bedrock aquifer were present, the indigenous protists inhibited reductive dechlorination altogether. The presence of protists during organic carbon-amended conditions caused the bacteria to elongate (length:width, > or =10:1), but reductive dechlorination was still inhibited. When a commercially available dechlorinating bacterial culture and an organic carbon amendment were added in he presence of protists, the elongated bacteria predominated and reductive dechlorination stalled at cDCE. When protists were removed under organic carbon-amended conditions, reductive dechlorination stalled at cDCE, whereas in the presence organic carbon and bacterial amendments, the total chlorinated ethene concentration decreased, indicating TCE was converted to ethene and/or CO2. The data suggested that indigenous protists grazed dechlorinators to extremely low levels, inhibiting dechlorination altogether. Hence, in situ bioremediation/bioaugmentation may not be successful in mineralizing TCE unless the top-down force of protistan predation is inhibited.