Our knowledge of pathogenesis has benefited from a better understanding of the roles of specific virulence factors in disease. To determine the role of the virulence factor ZapA, a 54-kDa metalloproteinase of Proteus mirabilis, in prostatitis, rats were infected with either wild-type (WT) P. mirabilis or its isogenic ZapA(-) mutant KW360. The WT produced both acute and chronic prostatitis showing the typical histological progressions that are the hallmarks of these diseases. Infection with the ZapA(-) mutant, however, resulted in reduced levels of acute prostatitis, as determined from lower levels of tissue damage, bacterial colonization, and inflammation. Further, the ZapA(-) mutant failed to establish a chronic infection, in that bacteria were cleared from the prostate, inflammation was resolved, and tissue was seen to be healing. Clearance from the prostate was not the result of a reduced capacity of the ZapA(-) mutant to form biofilms in vitro. These finding clearly define ZapA as an important virulence factor in both acute and chronic bacterial prostatitis.