The SARS 3C-like proteinase (SARS-3CLpro), which is the main proteinase of the SARS coronavirus, is essential to the virus life cycle. This enzyme has been shown to be active as a dimer in which only one protomer is active. However, it remains unknown how the dimer structure maintains an active monomer conformation. It has been observed that the Ser139-Leu141 loop forms a short 3(10)-helix that disrupts the catalytic machinery in the inactive monomer structure. We have tried to disrupt this helical conformation by mutating L141 to T in the stable inactive monomer G11A/R298A/Q299A. The resulting tetra-mutant G11A/L141T/R298A/Q299A is indeed enzymatically active as a monomer. Molecular dynamics simulations revealed that the L141T mutation disrupts the 3(10)-helix and helps to stabilize the active conformation. The coil-3(10)-helix conformational transition of the Ser139-Leu141 loop serves as an enzyme activity switch. Our study therefore indicates that the dimer structure can stabilize the active conformation but is not a required structure in the evolution of the active enzyme, which can also arise through simple mutations.