J774 macrophage-like cells express organic anion transporters that promote the efflux of fluoroquinolone antibiotics such as norfloxacin (NFX) from these cells. Gemfibrozil (GFZ) blocks organic anion transport in J774 cells, thereby facilitating the intracellular accumulation of NFX (Cao, C., H.C. Neu, and S.C. Silverstein. 1991. J. Cell Biol. 115:467a [Abstr.]). To determine whether GFZ enhances the efficacy of fluoroquinolone antibiotics against intracellular bacterial pathogens, J774 cells were infected with Listeria monocytogenes and incubated in medium containing a fluoroquinolone antibiotic in the presence or absence of GFZ. Intracellular growth of L. monocytogenes was evaluated by lysing J774 cells and assaying for colony-forming units of Listeria. GFZ intensified the bacteriostatic effect of 4 micrograms/ml NFX and rendered 8 micrograms/ml bactericidal for L. monocytogenes. GFZ had a similar potentiating effect when used in combination with 2 micrograms/ml ciprofloxacin (CFX). CFX plus GFZ was bactericidal for intracellular L. monocytogenes. Treatment of J774 cells with NFX plus GFZ markedly reduced the cytotoxic effect of the bacteria on these cells. Over 55% of cells treated with 8 micrograms/ml NFX alone were dead 16 h after infection, whereas only 5% of cells treated with 8 micrograms/ml NFX plus GFZ were dead at 16 h. Similarly, GFZ potentiated the ability of 2 micrograms/ml to protect J774 cells against the cytocidal effect of Listeria. NFX in combination with GFZ limited cell-to-cell spread of L. monocytogenes. In antibiotic-free medium, > 99% of J774 cells contained intracellular L. monocytogenes at 14 h after infection. NFX alone in the medium did not change this outcome. However, 4 micrograms/ml NFX plus GFZ decreased bacterial spread by approximately 40% at 24 h postinfection, and 8 micrograms/ml NFX plus GFZ prevented all spread beyond the initially infected cell population. These results suggest that GFZ could be used clinically to enhance the efficacy of fluoroquinolone and of other anionic antibiotics against bacteria that grow and/or reside within macrophages and/or other cells.