Catecholamines (norepinephrine, epinephrine, dopamine) enhance the growth of several species of gram-negative bacteria. Since catechol rings are known siderophores in bacteria, the administration of catecholamines may enhance growth by improving iron uptake in growth-limiting media, serving as auxiliary siderophores. We have tested the iron content in bacterial growth media which are known to support rapid growth and "slow growth" media. Additionally, we have examined the uptake of 3H-norepinephrine, to determine whether the catecholamine is actually taken into the bacteria or is merely adsorbed to the outside of the bacteria. Finally, we have been examining the supernatants produced by culturing bacteria with norepinephrine. These supernatants have been shown to have the capacity to enhance growth of naive cultures of bacteria, and are suggested to contain an "autoinducer of growth". We have found that both fast-growth and slow-growth media contain similar concentrations of iron, and that these levels do not change in most supernatants from NE-supplemented bacterial cultures. Examination of culture supernatants from NE-supplemented bacteria under different temperature conditions reveals some interesting differences. First, culture supernatant from NE-treated Escherichia coli, cultured at 37 degrees C, when examined by HPLC, exhibits a change in the norepinephrine content over time which is not seen in supernatant from 21 degrees C cultures or other media treatments. Second, the 37 degrees C culture NE-supplemented E. coli supernatant was significantly more effective in enhancing growth of three bacterial species than any other culture method other than NE-supplementation itself (this includes supernatant from NE-supplemented cultures of the other two species as well as supernatants from unsupplemented cultures of all three species).