The autolysin, N-acetyl muramidase (AcmA), of six commercial Lactococcus lactis subsp. cremoris starter strains and eight Lc. lactis subsp. cremoris derivatives or plasmid-free strains was shown by renaturing SDS-PAGE (zymogram analysis) to be degraded by the cell envelope proteinase (lactocepin; EC 188.8.131.52) after growth of strains in milk at 30 °C for 72 h. Degradation of AcmA was less in starter strains and derivatives producing lactocepin I/III (intermediate specificity) than in strains producing lactocepin I. This supports previous observations on AcmA degradation in derivatives of the laboratory strain Lc. lactis subsp. cremoris MG1363 (Buist et al. Journal of Bacteriology180 5947–5953 1998). In contrast to the MG1363 derivatives, however, the extent of autolysis in milk of the commercial Lc. lactis subsp. cremoris starter strains in this study did not always correlate with lactocepin specificity and AcmA degradation. The distribution of autolysins within the cell envelope of Lc. lactis subsp. cremoris starter strains and derivatives harvested during growth in milk was compared by zymogram analysis. AcmA was found associated with cell membranes as well as cell walls and some cleavage of AcmA occurred independently of lactocepin activity. An AcmA product intermediate in size between precursor (46 kDa) and mature (41 kDa) forms of AcmA was clearly visible on zymograms, even in the absence of lactocepin I activity. These results show that autolysis of commercial Lc. lactis subsp. cremoris starter strains is not primarily determined by AcmA activity in relation to lactocepin specificity and that proteolytic cleavage of AcmA in vivo is not fully defined.