Polymyxin B was attached to agarose beads by stable covalent bonds and the antimicrobial activity of the immobilized peptide was examined. Polymyxin-agarose inhibited the growth of Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, but not Bacillus subtilis. In addition, the respiration of E. coli, E. coli spheroplasts, and B. subtilis protoplasts was inhibited by immobilized polymyxin, whereas the respiration of B. subtilis was unaffected by polymyxin-agarose. The activity of polymyxin-agarose was not due to the release of free peptide from the derivative. These data indicate that polymyxin can inhibit the growth and respiration of gram-negative bacteria by interacting with the outer surface of these cells. It is proposed that perturbation of outer membrane structure by polymyxin-agarose indirectly affected the selective permeability of the inner membrane and inhibited respiration. The results of this study emphasize the importance of outer membrane structural integrity for the normal functions of gram-negative bacteria.