Bacterial immunoglobulin A1 (IgA1) proteases may sabotage the protective effects of IgA. In vitro, both exogenous and endogenously produced IgA1 protease inhibited phagocytic killing of Streptococcus pneumoniae by capsule-specific IgA1 human monoclonal antibodies (hMAbs) but not IgA2. These IgA1 proteases cleaved and reduced binding of the the effector Fc1 heavy chain but not the antigen-binding F(ab)/light chain to pneumococcal surfaces. In vivo, IgA1 protease-resistant IgA2, but not IgA1 protease-sensitive IgA1, supported 60% survival in mice infected with wild-type S. pneumoniae. IgA1 hMAbs protected mice against IgA1 protease-deficient but not -producing pneumococci. Parallel mouse sera with human IgA2 showed more efficient complement-mediated reductions in pneumococci with neutrophils than did IgA1, particularly with protease-producing organisms. After natural human pneumococcal bacteremia, purified serum IgG inhibited IgA1 protease activity in 7 of 11 patients (64%). These observations provide the first evidence in vivo that IgA1 protease can circumvent killing of S. pneumoniae by human IgA. Acquisition of IgA1 protease-neutralizing IgG after infection directs attention to IgA1 protease both as a determinant of successful colonization and infection and as a potential vaccine candidate.