The first mutant of Streptococcus pneumoniae showing a complete deletion in the lytA gene coding for the N-acetylmuramyl-L-alanine amidase has been isolated and characterized. This amidase was previously the only autolysin detected in this species. This mutant shows a normal growth rate and can be transformed using either chromosomal or plasmid DNA. The most remarkable biological consequences of the absence of the amidase are the formation of small chains (six to eight cells) and the absence of lysis in the stationary phase of growth. In addition, this mutant exhibits a tolerant response against the beta-lactam antibiotics.