A microtiter plate assay was employed to systematically assess the interaction between ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA) or lactoferrin and nisin, lysozyme, or monolaurin against strains of Listeria monocytogenes, Escherichia coli, Salmonella enteritidis, and Pseudomonas fluorescens. Low levels of EDTA acted synergistically with nisin and lysozyme against L. monocytogenes but EDTA and monolaurin interacted additively against this microorganism. EDTA synergistically enhanced the activity of nisin, monolaurin, and lysozyme in tryptic soy broth (TSB) against two enterohemorrhagic E. coli strains. In addition, various combinations of nisin, lysozyme, and monolaurin with EDTA were bactericidal to some gram-negative bacteria whereas none of the antimicrobials alone were bactericidal. Lactoferrin alone (2000 microg ml(-1)) did not inhibit any of the bacterial strains, but did enhance nisin activity against both L. monocytogenes strains. Lactoferrin in combination with monolaurin inhibited growth of E. coli O157:H7 but not E. coli O104:H21. While lactoferrin combined with nisin or monolaurin did not completely inhibit growth of the gram-negative bacteria, there was some growth inhibition. All combinations of EDTA or lactoferrin with antimicrobials were less effective in 2% fat UHT milk than in TSB. S. enteritidis and P. fluorescens strains were consistently more resistant to antimicrobial combinations. Resistance may be due to differences in the outer membrane and/or LPS structure.