Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a global scourge, and treatment options are becoming limited. The MRSA phenotype reverts to that of beta-lactam-sensitive S. aureus when bacteria are grown at pH 5.0 in broth and, more importantly from a medical perspective (protracted, relapsing infections), after phagocytosis by macrophages, where the bacteria thrive in the acidic environment of phagolysosomes. The central factor for the MRSA phenotype is the function of the penicillin-binding protein (PBP) 2a, which maintains transpeptidase activity while being poorly inhibited by beta-lactams because of a closed conformation of its active site. We document herein by binding, acylation/deacylation kinetics, and circular dichroism spectroscopy with purified PBP 2a that at acidic pH (i) beta-lactams interact with PBP 2a more avidly; (ii) the non-covalent pre-acylation complex exhibits a lower dissociation constant and an increased rate of acyl-enzyme formation (first-order rate constant) without change in hydrolytic deacylation rate; and (iii) PBP 2a undergoes a conformational change in the presence of the antibiotic consistent with the opening of the active site from the closed conformation. These observations argue that PBP 2a most likely evolved for its physiological function at pH 7 or higher by adopting a closed conformation, which is not maintained at acidic pH. Although at the organism level the effect of acidic pH on other biological processes in MRSA could not be discounted, our report should provide the impetus for closer examination of the properties of PBP 2a at low pH and thereby identifying novel points of intervention in combating this problematic organism.