We examined the antibacterial activities against Staphylococcus aureus of three diterpenes, namely, geranylgeraniol, teprenone, and phytol, by using a broth dilution with shaking method to identify the effects of diterpenes with long aliphatic carbon chains. We also performed time-kill assays and measured the leakage of K(+) ions from bacterial cells in response to these diterpenes. The diterpenes used inhibited the growth of S. aureus at concentrations of 0.15 microg/ml, as determined by damage to the cell membranes, and had clear bactericidal activity. However, the inhibitory effects of the diterpenes decreased when the concentration of each was raised above a certain level. The diterpenes tested in this study appeared to have both growth-inhibitory and growth-accelerating effects, and the net effect of each depended on its concentration.