Wounding of tomato leaves results in the accumulation of an exoprotease called leucine aminopeptidase (LAP-A) that preferentially hydrolyzes amino acid-p-nitroanilide and -beta-naphthylamide substrates with N-terminal Leu, Met and Arg residues. To determine the substrate specificity of LAP-A on more natural substrates, the rates of hydrolysis of 60 dipeptide and seven tripeptide substrates were determined. For comparison, the specificities of the porcine and Escherichia coli LAPs were evaluated in parallel. Several marked differences in substrate specificities for the animal, plant and prokaryotic LAP enzymes were observed. Substrates with variable N-terminal (P1) residues (Xaa) were evaluated; these substrates had Leu or Gly in the penultimate (P1') position. The plant, animal, and prokaryotic LAPs hydrolyzed dipeptides with N-terminal nonpolar aliphatic (Leu, Val, Ile, and Ala), basic (Arg), and sulfur-containing (Met) residues rapidly, while P1 Asp or Gly were cleaved inefficiently from peptides. Significant differences in the cleavage of dipeptides with P1 aromatic residues (Phe, Tyr, and Trp) were noted. To systematically evaluate the impact of the P1' residue on cleavage of dipeptides, three series of dipeptides (Leu-Xaa, Gly-Xaa, and Arg-Xaa) were evaluated. The P1' residue strongly influenced hydrolysis of dipeptides and the magnitude of its effect was dependent on the P1 residue. P1' Pro, Asp, Lys and Gly slowed the hydrolysis rates of the tomato LAP-A, porcine LAP, and E. coli PepA markedly. Analysis six Arg-Gly-Xaa tripeptides showed that more diversity was tolerated in the P2' position. P2' Arg inhibited tripeptide cleavage by all three enzymes, while P2' Asp enhanced hydrolysis rates for the porcine and prokaryotic LAPs.