SurA is a periplasmic peptidyl-prolyl isomerase required for the efficient folding of extracytoplasmic proteins. Although the surA gene had been identified in a screen for mutants that failed to survive in stationary phase, the role played by SurA in stationary-phase survival remained unknown. The results presented here demonstrate that the survival defect of surA mutants is due to their inability to grow at elevated pH in the absence of sigmaS. When cultures of Escherichia coli were grown in peptide-rich Luria-Bertani medium, the majority of the cells lost viability during the first two to three days of incubation in stationary phase as the pH rose to pH 9. At this time the surviving cells resumed growth. In cultures of surA rpoS double mutants the survivors lysed as they attempted to resume growth at the elevated pH. Cells lacking penicillin binding protein 3 and sigmaS had a survival defect similar to that of surA rpoS double mutants, suggesting that SurA foldase activity is important for the proper assembly of the cell wall-synthesizing apparatus.