Peptidoglycan recognition proteins (PGRPs) are pattern recognition molecules coded by up to 13 genes in insects and 4 genes in mammals. In insects PGRPs activate antimicrobial pathways in the hemolymph and cells, or are peptidoglycan (PGN)-lytic amidases. In mammals one PGRP is an antibacterial neutrophil protein. We report that human PGRP-L is a Zn2+-dependent N-acetylmuramoyl-l-alanine amidase (EC 188.8.131.52), an enzyme that hydrolyzes the amide bond between MurNAc and l-Ala of bacterial PGN. The minimum PGN fragment hydrolyzed by PGRP-L is MurNAc-tripeptide. PGRP-L has no direct bacteriolytic activity. The other members of the human PGRP family, PGRP-Ialpha, PGRP-Ibeta, and PGRP-S, do not have the amidase activity. The C-terminal region of PGRP-L, homologous to bacteriophage and bacterial amidases, is required and sufficient for the amidase activity of PGRP-L, although its activity (in the N-terminal delta1-343 deletion mutant) is reduced. The Zn2+ binding amino acids (conserved in PGRP-L and T7 amidase) and Cys-419 (not conserved in T7 amidase) are required for the amidase activity of PGRP-L, whereas three other amino acids, needed for the activity of T7 amidase, are not required for the activity of PGRP-L. These amino acids, although required, are not sufficient for the amidase activity, because changing them to the "active" configuration does not convert PGRP-S into an active amidase. In conclusion, human PGRP-L is an N-acetylmuramoyl-l-alanine amidase and this function is conserved in prokaryotes, insects, and mammals.