Thienamycin (THM), the N-formimidoyl thienamycin derivative MK0787, and related carbapenem antibiotics were metabolized extensively in mice, rats, rabbits, dogs, rhesus monkeys, and chimpanzees. Urinary recovery of THM ranged from a low of 5% in dogs to 58% in rhesus monkeys. Renal clearance rates in dogs and chimpanzees were unusually low, less than glomerular filtration rates. The reduction in clearance of THM and MK0787 from plasma of rats and rabbits after ligation of renal arteries indicate that the kidneys are responsible for 35 and 92%, respectively, of metabolic drug clearance. Degradation was detected only in kidney homogenates. The enzyme activity was membrane bound and sensitive to inhibitors of Zn-metalloenzymes such as EDTA. A renal dipeptidase, dehydropeptidase-I (DHP-I), EC 22.214.171.124, was found to be responsible for the metabolism of the THM-class antibiotics, which exhibit a structural homology to dehydropeptides. A parallel increase in specific activity against THM and the substrate of DHP-I, glycyldehydrophenylalanine, was observed during solubilization and purification of the enzyme from porcine and human renal cortex. DHP-I was found to catalyze the hydrolysis of the beta-lactam ring in THM and MK0787. The products of the enzyme reaction were identical by high-powered liquid chromatography to their respective metabolites found in the urine. Nonbasic N-acylated THM and natural N-acylated carbapenems (epithienamycins and olivanic acids) were degraded 4- to 50-fold faster than THM when exposed to the enzymatic hydrolysis of DHP-I. Good correlations were obtained between the increased susceptibility of the carbapenem antibiotics to DHP-I as measured in the in vitro enzyme assay and the generally lower recoveries of active antibiotic in the urine of test animals. Despite this unusual degree of metabolism localized in the kidney, the plasma half-life of MK0787 and its efficacy against experimental systemic infections in animals remain satisfactory.