Little is known about the molecular mechanism for autolysis of Gram-negative bacteria. In the present study, we identified the vvpS gene encoding a serine protease, VvpS, from Vibrio vulnificus, a Gram-negative food-borne pathogen. The amino acid sequence predicted that VvpS consists of two functional domains, an N-terminal protease catalytic domain (PCD) and a C-terminal carbohydrate binding domain (CBD). A null mutation of vvpS significantly enhanced viability during stationary phase, as measured by enumerating CFU and differentially staining viable cells. The vvpS mutant reduced the release of cytoplasmic MathematicalPi-Four.-1.H9252-galactosidase and high-molecular-weight extracellular chromosomal DNA into the culture supernatants, indicating that VvpS contributes to the autolysis of V. vulnificus during stationary phase. VvpS is secreted via a type II secretion system (T2SS), and it exerts its effects on autolysis through intracellular accumulation during stationary phase. Consistent with this, a disruption of the T2SS accelerated intracellular accumulation of VvpS and thereby the autolysis of V. vulnificus. VvpS also showed peptidoglycan-hydrolyzing activity, indicating that the autolysis of V. vulnificus is attributed to the self-digestion of the cell wall by VvpS. The functions of the VvpS domains were assessed by C-terminal deletion analysis and demonstrated that the PCD indeed possesses a proteolytic activity and that the CBD is required for hydrolyzing peptidoglycan effectively. Finally, the vvpS mutant exhibited reduced virulence in the infection of mice. In conclusion, VvpS is a serine protease with a modular structure and plays an essential role in the autolysis and pathogenesis of V. vulnificus.