Pooled mutant competition assays have shown that the Mycobacterium tuberculosis MT2282 gene (Rv2224c, annotated as encoding a proteinase) is required for bacterial survival in mice. To understand the mechanism of this requirement, we conducted a genetic and biochemical study of the MT2282 gene and its product. MT2282 encodes a member of the microbial esterase/lipase family with active site consensus sequences of G-X-S-X-G, and we have concluded that the MT2282 protein is, in fact, a cell wall-associated carboxylesterase rather than a proteinase, as initially annotated. The MT2282 gene product preferentially hydrolyzes ester bonds of substrates with intermediate carbon chain length. Purified MT2282 is a monomer with enzymatic catalysis properties that fit in the Michaelis-Menten kinetic model. Esterase activity was inhibited by paraoxon and dichlorvos. Replacement of Ser215, Asp450, and His477 by Ala in the consensus motifs completely abolishes esterase activity, suggesting that Ser215-Asp450-His477 forms a catalytic triad with Ser215 as an active site residue. To evaluate the role of the MT2282 in pathogenesis, the gene was deleted from the M. tuberculosis genome. BALB/c mouse aerosol infections showed reduced colony-forming unit loads in lungs and spleens and less lung pathology for the DeltaMT2282 mutant. High dose intravenous infection of mice with the mutant resulted in a significantly delayed time to death compared with the wild type or complemented mutant. These results indicate that MT2282 encodes a cell wall-associated carboxylesterase, which is required for full virulence of M. tuberculosis. We propose that MT2282 (Rv2224c) and its adjacent paralogous gene MT2281 (Rv2223c) be named caeA and caeB respectively, for carboxylesterase A and B.