1. A rapid method of isolation of fully active actinidin, the cysteine proteinase from Actinidia chinensis (Chinese gooseberry or kiwifruit), by covalent chromatography, was devised. 2. The active centre of actinidin was investigated by using n-propyl 2-pyridyl disulphide, 4-(N-aminoethyl 2′-pyridyl disulphide)-7-nitrobenzo-2-oxa-1,3-diazole and 4-chloro-7-nitrobenzofurazan as reactivity probes. 3. The presence in actinidin in weakly acidic media of an interactive system containing a nucleophilic sulphur atom was demonstrated. 4. The pKa values (3.1 and 9.6) that characterize this interactive system are more widely separated than those that characterize the interactive active centre systems of ficin (EC and papain (EC (3.8 and 8.6, and 3.9 and 8.8 respectively). 5. Actinidin was shown to resemble ficin rather than papain in (i) the disposition of the active-centre imidazole group with respect to hydrophobic binding areas, and (ii) the inability of the active-centre aspartic acid carboxy group to influence the reactivity of the active-centre thiol group at pH values of about 4. 6. The implications of the results for one-state and two-state mechanisms for cysteine-proteinase catalysis are discussed.

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