1. It has been found that cathepsin L is very susceptible to loss of activity through autolysis. When this is prevented by purification and storage of the enzyme as its mercury derivative, preparations are obtained with higher specific activity than previously. 2. Active-site titration shows, however, that even the new purification method does not give preparations in which the enzyme is 100% active. 3. Benzyloxycarbonylphenylalanylarginine 7-(4-methyl)coumarylamide has been discovered to be a very sensitive substrate for cathepsin L. Like all other known substrates for cathepsin L, however, it is also cleaved by cathepsin B. 4. Cathepsin L degrades insoluble collagen at pH 3.5 over 5-fold faster than at pH 6.0. The specific activity at pH 3.5 is 5-10-fold higher than that of cathepsin B (rat or human) or bovine spleen cathepsin N (‘collagenolytic cathepsin’). 5. Qualitatively, the action of cathepsin L on collagen is similar to that of cathepsins B and N, i.e. selective cleavage of terminal peptides leads to conversion of beta- and higher components mainly to alpha-chains.

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