Cationic liposomes composed of two components, diethylaminoethyl-carbamoyl cholesterol and phosphatidylcholine, were applied to an enhancer for a firefly bioluminescent (BL) assay of bacterial ATP in the presence of an ATP extractant. Trichloroacetic acid (TCA), which inhibits the activity of luciferase, was used as an ATP extractant. Cationic liposomes enhanced the BL intensity as long as luciferase was active. The detection limits for cell numbers of Escherichia coli extracts in the presence of cationic liposomes and in water alone were 199 and 897 colony forming units ml(-1), respectively. The sensitivity for bacterial ATP in the presence of cationic liposomes was improved by a factor of 2.5 times compared to that in the presence of diethylaminoethyl-dextran.