Citrate Test

Simmons citrate agar tests the ability of organisms to utilize citrate as a carbon source. Simmons citrate agar contains sodium citrate as the sole source of carbon, ammonium dihydrogen phosphate as the sole source of nitrogen, other nutrients, and the pH indicator bromthymol blue. This test is part of the IMViC tests and is helpful in differentiating the Enterobacteriaceae .

Organisms which can utilize citrate as their sole carbon source use the enzyme citrase or citrate-permease to transport the citrate into the cell.   These organisms also convert the ammonium dihydrogen phosphate to ammonia and ammonium hydroxide, which creates an alkaline environment in the medium.  At pH 7.5 or above, bromthymol blue turns royal blue. At a neutral pH, bromthymol blue is green, as evidenced by the uninoculated media.

If the medium turns blue, the organism is citrate positive.  If there is no color change, the organism is citrate negative.  Some citrate negative organisms may grow weakly on the surface of the slant, but they will not produce a color change.

When Simmons Citrate agar is inoculated with Salmonella typhimurium , the medium turns royal blue.  This is a positive result for the citrate test.
When Simmons Citrate agar is inoculated with Escherichia coli , the medium remains green.  This is a negative result for the citrate test.