- As part of its aerobic metabolism, Streptococcus pneumoniae generates high levels of H(2)O(2) by pyruvate oxidase (SpxB), which can be further reduced to yield the damaging hydroxyl radicals via the Fenton reaction. A universal conserved adaptation response observed among bacteria is the adjustment of the membrane fatty acids to various growth conditions. The aim of the present study was to reveal the effect of endogenous reactive oxygen species (ROS) formation on membrane composition of S. pneumoniae. Blocking carbon aerobic metabolism, by growing the bacteria at anaerobic conditions or by the truncation of the spxB gene, resulted in a significant enhancement in fatty acid unsaturation, mainly cis-vaccenic acid. Moreover, reducing the level of OH(.) by growing the bacteria at acidic pH, or in the presence of an OH(.) scavenger (salicylate), resulted in increased fatty acid unsaturation, similar to that obtained under anaerobic conditions. RT-PCR results demonstrated that this change does not originate from a change in mRNA expression level of the fatty acid synthase II genes. We suggest that endogenous ROS play an important regulatory role in membrane adaptation, allowing the survival of this anaerobic organism at aerobic environments of the host.