Production of pimaricin by Streptomyces natalensis ATCC 27448 is elicited by the PI-factor, an autoinducer secreted by the producer strain during the rapid growth phase. Exogenous PI-factor restored pimaricin production in a mutant strain npi287 defective in PI-factor biosynthesis. During purification of the PI-factor, a second pimaricin-inducing fraction different from PI-factor was isolated from the culture broth of wild-type S. natalensis ATCC 27448. After purification by HPLC and analysis by MS and NMR, this active fraction was shown to contain glycerol and lactic acid. Pure glycerol restored pimaricin production in liquid cultures of the autoinducer-defective npi287 mutant. A similar effect was exerted by ethylene glycol, 1,2-propanediol and 1,3-propanediol but not by higher polyalcohols or by glycerol acetate or glycerol lactate esters. Glycerol stimulated (30-270 %) the production of six different polyene macrolide antibiotics by their respective producer strains. Addition of glycerol to the inducer-defective npi287 strain restored pimaricin production but did not result in extracellular or intracellular accumulation of PI-factor. Exogenously added PI-factor was internalized by the cells in the presence of glycerol, and a mixture of both PI-factor and glycerol produced a slightly higher inducing effect on pimaricin production than PI-factor alone. In summary, glycerol, ethylene glycol and propanediol exert a bypass of the PI-factor inducing effect on pimaricin biosynthesis.