Cell wall metabolism and cell wall modification are very important processes that bacteria use to adjust to various environmental conditions. One of the main modifications is deacetylation of peptidoglycan. The polysaccharide deacetylase homologue, Bacillus subtilis YjeA (renamed PdaC), was characterized and found to be a unique deacetylase. The pdaC deletion mutant was sensitive to lysozyme treatment, indicating that PdaC acts as a deacetylase. The purified recombinant and truncated PdaC from Escherichia coli deacetylated B. subtilis peptidoglycan and its polymer, (-GlcNAc-MurNAc[-L-Ala-D-Glu]-)(n). Surprisingly, RP-HPLC and ESI-MS/MS analyses showed that the enzyme deacetylates N-acetylmuramic acid (MurNAc) not GlcNAc from the polymer. Contrary to Streptococcus pneumoniae PgdA, which shows high amino acid sequence similarity with PdaC and is a zinc-dependent GlcNAc deacetylase toward peptidoglycan, there was less dependence on zinc ion for deacetylation of peptidoglycan by PdaC than other metal ions (Mn(2+), Mg(2+), Ca(2+)). The kinetic values of the activity toward B. subtilis peptidoglycan were K(m) = 4.8 mM and k(cat) = 0.32 s(-1). PdaC also deacetylated N-acetylglucosamine (GlcNAc) oligomers with a K(m) = 12.3 mM and k(cat) = 0.24 s(-1) toward GlcNAc(4). Therefore, PdaC has GlcNAc deacetylase activity toward GlcNAc oligomers and MurNAc deacetylase activity toward B. subtilis peptidoglycan.