Microorganisms possess the ability to recognize hormones within the host and utilize them to adapt to their surroundings. Noradrenaline and adrenaline, which are released during human stress responses, may act as environmental cues to alter the growth of individual organisms within subgingival biofilms. The aims of this study were to modify, for anaerobic culture, existing methodology used in determining microorganism catecholamine responses and to investigate the growth responses to noradrenaline and adrenaline of 43 microorganisms found within subgingival microbial complexes. We established initial inocula for each strain using anaerobic culture, re-inoculated into a minimal serum-based medium and grown anaerobically at 35 degrees C. We assessed organism growth by optical density (OD(600nm)) readings, with test and control cultures performed in triplicate. Test cultures were supplemented with 50 microm noradrenaline or 100 microm adrenaline. We observed significant growth effects for supplementation with noradrenaline (20 species responding positively) and adrenaline (27 species responding positively), with differences in growth response observed within bacterial species and within and between microbial complexes. The most pronounced positive growth effects of noradrenaline were demonstrated in Actinomyces naeslundii (+ 49.4%), Actinomyces gerenscseriae (+ 57.2%), Eikenella corrodens (+ 143.3%) and Campylobacter gracilis (+ 79.9%). We also observed inhibitory effects of noradrenaline supplementation for Porphyromonas gingivalis (- 11.9%) and Bacteroides forsythus (- 22.2%). Responses to adrenaline tended to mirror the responses seen with noradrenaline. Individual organisms from different microbial complexes vary in their in vitro growth responses to noradrenaline and adrenaline. Such variation may influence the in vivo composition of the subgingival biofilm in response to stress-induced changes in local catecholamine levels and play a significant role in the aetiology and pathogenesis of the periodontal diseases.