The interaction of nisin Z and a nisin Z mutant carrying a negative charge in the C-terminus ([Glu-32]-nisin Z) with anionic lipids was characterized in model membrane systems, and bacterial membrane systems. We focused on three possible steps in the mode of action of nisin, i.e., binding, insertion, and pore formation of nisin Z. Increasing amounts of anionic lipids in both model and natural membranes were found to strongly enhance the interaction of nisin Z with the membranes at all stages. The results reveal a good correlation between the anionic lipid dependency of the three stages of interaction, of which the increased binding is probably the major determinant for antimicrobial activity. Maximal nisin Z activity could be observed for negatively charged lipid concentrations exceeding 50-60%, both in model membrane systems as well as in bacterial membrane systems. We propose that the amount of negatively charged lipids of the bacterial target membrane is a major determinant for the sensitivity of the organism for nisin. Nisin Z induced leakage of the anionic carboxyfluorescein was more efficient as compared to the leakage of the potassium cation. This lead to the conclusion that an anion-selective pore is formed. In contrast to the results obtained for nisin Z, the binding of [Glu-32]-nisin Z to vesicles remained low even in the presence of high amounts of negatively charged lipids. The insertion and pore-forming ability of [Glu-32]-nisin Z were also decreased. These results demonstrate that the C-terminus of nisin is responsible for the initial interaction of nisin, i.e., binding to the target membrane.