HmrA is an antibiotic resistance factor of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Molecular analysis of this protein revealed that it is not a muramidase or beta-lactamase but a nonspecific double-zinc endopeptidase consisting of a catalytic domain and an inserted oligomerization domain, which probably undergo a relative interdomain hinge rotation upon substrate binding. The active-site cleft is located at the domain interface. Four HmrA protomers assemble to a large similar to 170-kDa homotetrameric complex of 125 angstrom. All four active sites are fully accessible and similar to 50-70 angstrom apart, far enough apart to act on a large meshwork substrate independently but simultaneously. In vivo studies with four S. aureus strains of variable resistance levels revealed that the extracellular addition of HmrA protects against loss of viability in the presence of oxacillin and that this protection depends on proteolytic activity. All of these results indicate that HmrA is a peptidase that participates in resistance mechanisms in vivo in the presence of beta-lactams. Furthermore, our results have implications for most S. aureus strains of known genomic sequences and several other cocci and bacilli, which harbor close orthologs. This suggests that HmrA may be a new widespread antibiotic resistance factor in bacteria.