The ponA gene of cosmid L222 of the Mycobacterium leprae genome library encodes a multimodular class A penicillin-binding protein (PBP), PBP1. The PBP, labelled with a polyhistidine sequence, has been produced in Escherichia coli, extracted from the membranes with 3-[(3-cholamidopropyl)-dimethylammonio]-1-propane-sulfonate (CHAPS) and purified by Ni2(+)-nitrilotriacetic acid-agarose chromatography. In contrast to the pon1-encoded class A PBP1, PBP1 undergoes denaturation at temperatures higher than 25 degrees C, it catalyzes acyl transfer reactions on properly structured thiolesters, and it binds penicillin with high affinity.