The bacterial cell wall peptidoglycan is essential for maintenance of viability and yet is dynamic, permitting growth and division. Peptidoglycan synthesis is inhibited by important antibiotics, including β-lactams and vancomycin. Using the human pathogen
Staphylococcus aureus, we have examined peptidoglycan homeostatic mechanisms and how their interruption leads to cell death. This has revealed two antibiotic-induced killing mechanisms mediated by specific peptidoglycan hydrolases, both involving the appearance of holes that span the entire thickness of the cell wall. One of the mechanisms is associated with growth and the other with cell division. This study supports a simple model for how cells grow via a combination of peptidoglycan synthesis and hydrolysis and how antibiotic intervention leads to cell death.