Lysozyme is an enzyme that cleaves the β-1,4-glycosidic linkages between N-acetylmuramic acid and N-acetylglucosamine in peptidoglycan, leading to bacterial lysis. Recently, lysozyme has been found to have anti-HIV and anti-cancer properties in mammals. However, most functional analyses were done in vitro using purified or recombinant lysozyme protein. Here, we used RNA interference to silence c-type lysozyme expression in penaeid shrimp, Marsupenaeus japonicus, to analyze the function of lysozyme in vivo. Silencing of lysozyme expression by dsRNA lysozyme (dsLYZ) led to 100% mortality without any artificial bacterial infection in 5 days. Lysozyme deficiency caused the number of hemocytes in hemolymph to decrease from 1.3 × 10(7) to 2.3 × 10(6) cells/ml and caused the number of bacteria to increase from 78 to 764 colony-forming units/ml. Suppression of bacterial growth using oxytetracycline and kanamycin showed improvement in mortality, suggesting that shrimp mortality post- dsLYZ injection can be attributed to bacterial growth in the shrimp hemolymph. The majority of the bacteria, identified by 16 S rRNA analysis, were Gram-negative species such as Vibrio and Pseudomonas. Furthermore, PKH26 staining showed that the dsLYZ-injected shrimp were unable to eliminate non pathogenic Escherichia coli or Staphylococcus aureus in 24 h. These data suggest that c-type lysozyme in shrimp serves to regulate the growth of bacterial communities, particularly Gram-negative bacteria, in the hemolymph.