Penicillin-binding protein 2 (PBP2), target of the beta-lactam mecillinam, is required for rod morphology and cell wall elongation in Escherichia coli. A new temperature-sensitive PBP2 allele and an in vitro-constructed insertion deletion allele were shown to be lethal in wild-type strains, establishing that the activity of this protein is essential. Mutations in the lov or cya genes, conferring mecillinam resistance, compensated for the deleterious effect of the absence of PBP2. The resulting double mutants grew as spheres. In a cya mutant lacking PBP2, the restoration of a Cya+ phenotype by addition of cyclic AMP caused lethality and a block in cell division. These results show that in wild-type cells, PBP2 is essential for growth and division.