A series of mercaptophenylacetic acid thiol esters bearing a phenyl substituent adjacent to the carboxylic acid function has been shown to be inhibitors of metallo-beta-lactamases. The inhibition of the Bacteroides fragilis CfiA and Bacillus cereus II metallo-beta-lactamases was Zn2- dependent, greater inhibition being observed at 1 microM ZnSO4 than at 100 microM ZnSO4. Despite this Zn2+ dependency, isothermal titration calorimetry studies illustrated that representative compounds had no detectable affinity for Zn2+ (K > 1 mM). This indicates that their mode of inhibition was not by chelation of the active site Zn2+. Greatest potency was observed against the Stenotrophomonas maltophilia L1 metallo-beta-lactamase with I50 values of between < 1.95 microM and 6 microM and SB-217843 exhibited a similar level of inhibition of this enzyme at 1 and 100 microM Zn2+ (I50 values 5 and 6 microM, respectively). Inhibition of B. cereus II metallo-beta-lactamase by SB-218018 and SB-217782 was competitive with Ki values of 185 microM and 1500 microM, respectively. Therefore, these compounds are specific inhibitors of metallo-beta-lactamases and provide further probes of the active sites of these enzymes.