Examination of the lipid composition of spore membranes of Bacillus subtilis Marburg, extracted after treatment of spores with dithiothreitol/urea and NaOH followed by lysozyme digestion, revealed that the spore membranes had significantly higher cardiolipin (CL) content than the membranes of exponentially growing cells. Analysis of the membranes of coat-defective, cotE::cat and gerE::cat mutant spores, which are susceptible to lysozyme digestion without chemical treatment, confirmed that spore membranes contain a high level of CL. After addition of the germinants L-alanine or AGFK (a combination of asparagine, glucose, fructose, and KCl), the turbidity of wild type spore suspensions decreased to 50% within 30 min. Suspensions of spores with only trace amounts of CL, however, showed no decrease in turbidity when L-alanine was added and the initial decrease in turbidity with AGFK was slight (14% after 60 min). These results indicate that CL is involved in an early step of germination, related to the functioning of germinant receptors. This is the first conspicuous in vivo evidence that CL in bacterial membranes has a specific role, in which it cannot be replaced by other anionic phospholipids.