During germination spores of Streptomyces viridochromogenes NRRL B-1551 excrete a compound, germicidin, which has an inhibitory effect on the germination of its own arthrospores at a concentration as low as 200 pM (40 pg/ml). At higher concentrations germicidin inhibits porcine Na+/K(+)-activated ATPase and retards the germination of the cress Lepidium sativum. Germicidin is the first known autoregulative inhibitor of spore germination in the genus Streptomyces and was isolated from the supernatant of germinated spores, but also from the supernatant of the submerged culture. Spectroscopic analysis and derivatization reactions revealed germicidin to be 6-(2-butyl)-3-ethyl-4-hydroxy-2-pyrone (C11H16O3). Crude isolates of germicidin from the supernatant of submerged culture, but not from the spores, contained a second, structurally very similar compound (C10H14O3), in which in contrast to germicidin a 2-propyl instead of the 2-butyl chain was bound to C-6 and which did not show any activity in the germination and ATPase assay. The germination assay was evaluated as a new screening model for specifically active compounds.