Penicillin resistance in Streptococcus spp. involves multiple mutations in both penicillin-binding proteins (PBPs) and non-PBP genes. Here, we studied the development of penicillin resistance in the oral commensal Streptococcus gordonii. Cyclic exposure of bacteria to twofold-increasing penicillin concentrations selected for a progressive 250- to 500-fold MIC increase (from 0.008 to between 2 and 4 microg/ml). The major MIC increase (> or = 35-fold) was related to non-PBP mutations, whereas PBP mutations accounted only for a 4- to 8-fold additional increase. PBP mutations occurred in class B PBPs 2X and 2B, which carry a transpeptidase domain, but not in class A PBP 1A, 1B, or 2A, which carry an additional transglycosylase domain. Therefore, we tested whether inactivation of class A PBPs affected resistance development in spite of the absence of mutations. Deletion of PBP 1A or 2A profoundly slowed down resistance development but only moderately affected resistance in already highly resistant mutants (MIC = 2 to 4 microg/ml). Thus, class A PBPs might facilitate early development of resistance by stabilizing penicillin-altered peptidoglycan via transglycosylation, whereas they might be less indispensable in highly resistant mutants which have reestablished a penicillin-insensitive cell wall-building machinery. The contribution of PBP and non-PBP mutations alone could be individualized in DNA transformation. Both PBP and non-PBP mutations conferred some level of intrinsic resistance, but combining the mutations synergized them to ensure high-level resistance (> or = 2 microg/ml). The results underline the complexity of penicillin resistance development and suggest that inhibition of transglycosylase might be an as yet underestimated way to interfere with early resistance development.