The effect of aqueous extracts of carob (Ceratonia siliqua) pods, gallotannic acid, gallic acid, and catechol on several microorganisms was studied. Carob pod extract and tannic acid showed a strong antimicrobial activity toward some cellulolytic bacteria. On the basis of tannin content, to which antimicrobial effect was related, carob pod extracts inhibited Cellvibrio fulvus and Clostridium cellulosolvens at 15 mug/ml, Sporocytophaga myxococcoides at 45 mug/ml, and Bacillus subtilis at 75 mug/ml. The inhibiting concentrations for tannic acid were found to be 12, 10, 45, and 30 mug/ml, respectively. Gallic acid and catechol were much less effective. Tannic acid and the tannin fraction of carob extract exerted both bacteriostatic and bactericidal effects on C. fulvus. Respiration of C. fulvus in the presence of bactericidal concentrations of tannic acid or tannin fraction of carob extract was inhibited less than 30%. A partial formation of "protoplasts" by C. fulvus was obtained after 2 hr of incubation in a growth medium to which 20% sucrose, 0.15% MgSO(4).7H(2)O, and 10 to 50 mug/ml of tannic acid or 500mug/ml of penicillin, or both, had been added. Tannic acid and the tannin fraction of carob extract protected C. fulvus from metabolic lysis in sucrose solution. Although the growth of other microorganisms tested was only slightly affected, the morphology of some of them was drastically changed in the presence of subinhibitory concentrations of carob pod extracts of tannic acid. It is suggested that the site of action of tannins on sensitive microorganisms is primarily the cell envelope.