A single intravenous injection into rats of 0.4 mg of the muralytic enzyme mutanolysin, given as long as 3 d after an arthropathic dose of peptidoglycan-polysaccharide polymers derived from group A streptococci (PG-APS), resulted in a complete resolution of acute arthritis and the prevention of chronic joint disease. When administration of mutanolysin was delayed until 14 d after the injection of PG-APS, a great reduction in the severity of chronic inflammation was still observed. Quantitation of the amount of PG-APS present in the limbs, spleen, and liver by a solid phase enzyme-linked immunoassay indicated that the tissues of mutanolysin-treated rats contained as much PG-APS as tissues of PBS-treated control rats. In addition, rats treated with mutanolysin immediately after receiving an intraperitoneal injection of PG-APS developed a transient limb edema similar to that seen in rats after the injection of PG-APS digested to a small fragment size in vitro with mutanolysin. We hypothesize that mutanolysin acts in vivo by degrading PG-APS to small fragments that persist but are no longer arthropathic.