We have developed a novel, high-throughput scintillation proximity assay to measure the membrane-associated steps (stages 2 and 3) of peptidoglycan synthesis in Escherichia coli. At least five enzymes are involved in these two stages, all of which are thought to be essential for the survival of the cell. The individual enzymes are difficult to assay since the substrates are lipidic and difficult to isolate in large quantities and analysis is done by paper chromatography. We have assayed all five enzymes in a single mixture by monitoring synthesis of cross-linked peptidoglycan, which is the final product of the pathway. E. coli membranes are incubated with the two sugar precursors, UDP-N-acetyl muramylpentapeptide and UDP-[(3)H]-N-acetylglucosamine. The radiolabel is incorporated into peptidoglycan, which is captured using wheat germ agglutinin-coated scintillation proximity assay beads. The assay monitors the activity of the translocase (MraY), the transferase (MurG), the lipid pyrophosphorylase, and the transglycosylase and transpeptidase activities of the penicillin-binding proteins. Vancomyin, tunicamycin, nisin, moenomycin, bacitracin, and penicillin inhibit the assay, and these inhibitors have been used to validate the assay. The search for new antimicrobial agents that act via the late stages of peptidoglycan biosynthesis can now be performed in high throughput in a microtiter plate.