As one of the final steps in the bacterial growth cycle, daughter cells must be released from one another by cutting the shared peptidoglycan wall that separates them. In Escherichia coli, this delicate operation is performed by several peptidoglycan hydrolases, consisting of multiple amidases, lytic transglycosylases, and endopeptidases. The interactions among these enzymes and the molecular mechanics of how separation occurs without lysis are unknown. We show here that deleting the endopeptidase PBP 4 from strains lacking AmiC produces long chains of unseparated cells, indicating that PBP 4 collaborates with the major peptidoglycan amidases during cell separation. Another endopeptidase, PBP 7, fulfills a secondary role. These functions may be responsible for the contributions of PBPs 4 and 1 to the generation of regular cell shape and the production of normal biofilms. In addition, we find that the E. coli peptidoglycan amidases may have different substrate preferences. When the oo-carboxypeptidase PBP 5 was deleted, thereby producing cells with higher levels of pentapeptides, mutants carrying only AmiC produced a higher percentage of cells in chains, while mutants with active AmiA or AmiB were unaffected. The results suggest that AmiC prefers to remove tetrapeptides from peptidoglycan and that AmiA and AmiB either have no preference or prefer pentapeptides. Muropeptide compositions of the mutants corroborated this latter conclusion. Unexpectedly, amidase mutants lacking PBP 5 grew in long twisted chains instead of straight filaments, indicating that overall septal morphology was also defective in these strains. Copyright © 2006, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.