Cystatin C with the 11 N-terminal amino acids truncated shows a much lower affinity for cysteine proteinases than the intact inhibitor. Such truncation of cystatin C is recorded after action of glycyl endopeptidase and cathepsin L. Incubation of cystatin C with papain, cathepsin B or cathepsin H led to no changes in the cystatin C molecule. Isoelectric focusing of the cathepsin L and cystatin C mixture showed the formation of two new bands. One of them appeared whether E-64 or PMSF was added or not, evidently representing a cystatin C/cathepsin L complex. The other band is the truncated cystatin C molecule. N-terminal sequencing after separation by HPLC showed that cystatin C is cleaved by cathepsin L at the Gly11-Gly12 bond. The action of cathepsin L on cystatin C may be explained by the cleavage of the scissile bond in an inappropriate complex.