Staphylococcus aureus is resistant to alpha-defensins, antimicrobial peptides that play an important role in oxygen-independent killing of human neutrophils. The dlt operon mediates d-alanine incorporation into teichoic acids in the staphylococcal cell envelope and is a determinant of defensin resistance. By using S. aureus wild-type (WT) and Dlt- bacteria, the relative contributions of oxygen-dependent and -independent antimicrobial phagocyte components were analyzed. The Dlt- strain was efficiently killed by human neutrophils even in the absence of a functional respiratory burst, whereas the killing of the WT organism was strongly diminished when the respiratory burst was inhibited. Human monocytes, which do not produce defensins, inactivated the WT and Dlt- bacteria with similar efficiencies. In addition, mice injected with the Dlt- strain had significantly lower rates of sepsis and septic arthritis and fewer bacteria in the kidneys, compared with mice infected with the WT strain.