Gas chromatography--mass spectrometry has been used to identify specific metabolites produced by Gram-negative bacteria such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Serratia marcescens, Klebsiella pneumoniae and Escherichia coli in a defined medium. 6-Hydroxynicotinic acid was detected in spent culture media of Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Serratia marcescens, but could not be detected in those of Klebsiella pneumoniae and Escherichia coli. The production of 6-hydroxynicotinic acid was recognized by the addition of nicotinic acid in urine with Pseudomonas aeruginosa or Serratia marcescens, but not without the addition of nicotinic acid. Among 10(5) Pseudomonas aeruginosa per 1 ml of urine (criteria for the diagnosis of urinary tract infection), 0.15 microgram of 6-hydroxynicotinic acid was detected in urine at 4 h incubation with nicotinic acid at the optimum pH of 6.9, 38 degrees C. The production of 6-hydroxynicotinic acid was proportional to the number of the bacteria and displayed a time dependency. These results suggest that the availability of 6-hydroxynicotinic acid might make for more rapid identification of bacteria than current methods.