Staphylococcus aureus gamma-hemolysins (HlgA, HlgB and HlgC) and Panton-Valentine leucocidins (LukS-PV and LukF-PV) are bi-component toxins forming a protein family with some relationship to alpha-toxin. Active toxins are couples formed by taking one protein from each of the two subfamilies of the S-components (LukS-PV, HlgA and HlgC) and the F-components (LukF-PV and HlgB). We compared the mode of action of the six possible couples on leukocytes, red blood cells and model lipid membranes. All couples were leucotoxic on human monocytes, whereas only four couples (HlgA+HlgB, HlgC+HlgB, LukS-PV+HlgB and HlgA+LukF-PV) were hemolytic. Toxins HlgA+HlgB and HlgC+HlgB were also able to induce permeabilisation of model membranes by forming pores via oligomerisation. The presence of membrane-bound aggregates, the smallest and most abundant of which had molecular weight and properties similar to that formed by alpha-toxin, was detected by SDS-PAGE. By infrared spectroscopy in the attenuated total reflection configuration (FTIR-ATR), the secondary structure of both components and of the aggregate were determined to be predominantly beta-sheet and turn with small variations among different toxins. Polarisation experiments indicated that the structure of the membrane complex was compatible with the formation of a beta-barrel oriented perpendicularly to the plane of the membrane, similar to that of porins. The couple LukS-PV+LukF-PV was leucotoxic, but not hemolytic. When challenged against model membranes it was able to bind to the lipid vesicles and to form the aggregate with the beta-barrel structure, but not to increase calcein permeability. Thus, the pore-forming effect correlated with the hemolytic, but not with the complete leucotoxic activity of these toxins, suggesting that other mechanisms, like the interaction with endogenous cell proteins, might also play a role in their pathogenic action.