The interaction of ethidium bromide, a fluorescent dye, with Escherichia coli cells was studied. The envelope of intact cells was shown to be impermeable for ethidium bromide molecules. The dye penetrated however into E. coli spheroplasts. The barrier properties of the cell envelope against ethidium bromide were ruptured if the cells were treated with EDTA. The results suggest that the outer membrane serves as a principal barrier against penetration of ethidium bromide inside the cells while the cytoplasmic membrane of E. coli is permeable for the dye.