A study was made on the correlation between the degree of membrane fusion and surface tension increase of phosphatidic acid membranes caused by divalent cations. Membrane fusion was followed by the Tb3+/dipicolinic acid assay, monitoring the fluorescent intensity for mixing of the internal aqueous contents of small unilamellar lipid vesicles. The surface tension and surface potential of monolayers made of the same lipids as used in the fusion experiments were measured as a function of divalent cation concentration. It was found that the 'threshold' concentration to induce massive vesicle membrane fusion was the same for Ca2+ and Mg2+, and that the surface tension increase in the monolayer, induced by changing divalent cation concentration from zero to a concentration which corresponds to its threshold value, inducing vesicle membrane fusion, was approximately the same: 6.3 dyn/cm for both Ca2+ and Mg2+. Both the divalent cation's threshold concentrations as well as the surface tension change corresponding to the threshold concentration for the phosphatidic acid membrane were smaller than those for the phosphatidylserine membrane. The different fusion capability of these divalent cations for phosphatidic acid and phosphatidylserine membranes is discussed in terms of the different ion binding capabilities of these ions to the membranes.