The mode of antibacterial action of, the green tea (Camellia sinensis) extracts, (-)-epigallocatechin gallate (EGCg) and (-)-epicatechin (EC) was investigated. Strong bactericidal EGCg caused leakage of 5,6-carboxyfluorescein from phosphatidylcholine liposomes (PC), but EC with very weak bactericidal activity caused little damage to the membrane. Phosphatidylserine and dicetyl phosphate partially protected the membrane from EGCg-mediated damage when reconstituted into the liposome membrane with PC. EGCg, but not EC, caused strong aggregation and NPN-fluorescence quenching of PC-liposomes and these actions were markedly lowered in the presence of negatively charged lipids. These results show that bactericidal catechins primarily act on and damage bacterial membranes. The observation that Gram-negative bacteria are more resistant to bactericidal catechins than Gram-positive bacteria can be explained to some extent by the presence of negatively charged lipopolysaccharide.