Non-beta-lactamase-producing, penicillin-resistant strains of Neisseria gonorrhoeae (CMRNG strains) produce altered forms of penicillin-binding protein 2 (PBP2) that have decreased affinity for penicillin. A feature of PBP2 from all CMRNG strains is the presence of an additional residue (Asp-345A) that is absent from PBP2 of penicillin-sensitive strains. The role of the additional aspartic acid residue in the decreased affinity of PBP2 is unclear as PBP2 of all previously examined CMRNG strains possess several other amino acid sequence alterations, in addition to the insertion of Asp-345A, compared to PBP2 of penicillin-sensitive strains. Site-directed mutagenesis has been used to insert the Asp-345A codon into the penA gene from a penicillin-sensitive gonococcus. The resulting penA gene expressed an altered form of PBP2 that had a decreased affinity for benzylpenicillin and was able to transform a penicillin-sensitive strain of N. gonorrhoeae to an increased level of resistance to benzylpenicillin. Insertion of amino acids other than aspartic acid did not produce forms of PBP2 that provided increased resistance to penicillin. Removal of the Asp-345A codon from the penA gene of a CMRNG strain reduced its ability to transform a penicillin-sensitive strain to an increased level of penicillin resistance. The reduction in the affinity of PBP2 in CMRNG strains is therefore largely, although not exclusively, due to the insertion of Asp-345A. Clinical isolates that produce altered forms of PBP2 that differ from that of penicillin-sensitive strains only in the insertion of Asp-345A have been identified.