The biosynthesis of several classes of ribosomally synthesized and posttranslationally modified peptides involves dehydration of serine and threonine residues. For class I lantibiotics, thiopeptides, and goadsporin, this dehydration is catalyzed by lanthionine biosynthetic enzyme B (LanB) or LanB-like proteins. Although LanB proteins have been studied since 1992, in vitro reconstitution of their dehydration activity has been elusive. We show here the in vitro activity of the dehydratase involved in the biosynthesis of the food preservative nisin (NisB). In vitro, NisB dehydrated its substrate peptide NisA eight times in the presence of glutamate, ATP, Mg(2+), and the ribosomal/membrane fraction of bacterial cell extract. Mutation of 23 highly conserved residues of NisB identified a number of amino acids that are essential for dehydration activity. In addition, these mutagenesis studies identified three mutants, R786A, R826A, and H961A, that result in multiple glutamylations of the NisA substrate. Glutamylation was observed during both Escherichia coli coexpression of NisA with these mutants and in vitro assays. Treatment of the glutamylated substrate with WT NisB results in dehydrated NisA, suggesting that the glutamylated peptide is an intermediate in dehydration. Collectively, these studies suggest that dehydration involves glutamylation of the side chains of Ser and Thr followed by elimination. The latter step has precedent in the virginiamycin resistance protein virginiamycin B lyase. These studies will facilitate investigation of other LanB proteins involved in the biosynthesis of lantibiotics, thiopeptides, and goadsporin.