Application of silicate solutions to living or heat-killed pneumococci and to certain "viridans" streptococci causes their conversion from a Gram-positive to a Gram-negative state. The original staining properties can be restored by suspending the silicate-treated bacteria in alkaline solutions of various salts but not by simple washing in water.
Living pneumococci and the strains of streptococci whose staining properties are similarly affected are killed when suspended in silicate solutions.
In other Gram-positive species silicate causes conversion to Gram negativity but restoration to positivity occurs upon washing in water. In a third group of Gram-positive organisms silicate has no effect on the Gram reaction. The viability of organisms in these two groups is unaffected by silicate under the conditions employed. No effect on staining or viability of Gram-negative bacteria has been observed.
The effects of silicate on staining and viability are inhibited by nutrient broth or whole serum but not by purified serum albumin. Lecithin, choline, and other substituted ammonium compounds also inhibit the effects of silicate on pneumococci.