The effect of the non-ionic detergent, Triton X-100, on the in-vitro activity of oxacillin against methicillin-resistant (MRSA) and methicillin-susceptible (MSSA) strains of Staphylococcus aureus was investigated. In the presence of Triton X-100, the MICs of oxacillin for both MRSA and MSSA isolates were reduced; this enhancing effect was particularly marked for the MRSA strains. Triton X-100 therefore counteracted the resistance to methicillin encoded by mecA. In the presence of oxacillin at subinhibitory concentrations, Triton X-100 induced the bacteriolysis of MRSA and potentiated the autolysis of these organisms. However, the detergent had no effect on the bacteriolytic enzyme profile or the susceptibility of the bacterial cell wall to bacteriolytic enzymes, nor did it promote the binding of oxacillin to the penicillin-binding protein (PBP) 2A. On the other hand, it stimulated the release from the bacteria of acylated lipoteichoic acid (LTA), a putative endogenous regulator of autolysins. Autolytic enzyme-deficient MRSA mutants were equally as sensitive as the parent strain to the effect of Triton X-100 on susceptibility to oxacillin. These results indicate that the enhanced in-vitro activity of oxacillin against MRSA in the presence of Triton X-100 cannot be accounted for simply by the induction of bacteriolysis following activation of autolytic enzymes by the detergent-stimulated release of LTA.