A mutant with decreased susceptibility to imipenem (IpR) was selected in vitro from a susceptible clinical isolate of Listeria monocytogenes (IpS). IpR exhibited decreased susceptibility to penicillin G (4 x MIC) and imipenem (16 x MIC) and increased susceptibility to cefotaxime (0.25 x MIC). Electrophoretic profiles of membrane proteins and penicillin-binding proteins (PBPs) were identical in the two strains; each strain had five PBPs with molecular masses of ca. 97, 83.3, 81, 77.1, and 42.6 kilodaltons. A decreased affinity of PBP 3 for penicillin G and imipenem (10-fold) was observed in IpR. In contrast, the affinity of PBP 3 for cefotaxime in IpR was increased twofold and correlated with the decreased MIC of this drug. From these findings and competition experiments with different beta-lactam antibiotics, we conclude that the alteration of PBP 3 is responsible for the decreased susceptibility of IpR to penicillin and imipenem and that PBP 3 might be an essential target of beta-lactam antibiotics in L. monocytogenes.