In the present study, we have generated a mutant strain of Streptococcus pyogenes, MC25, which lacks M protein on its surface, and we demonstrate that this strain is unable to generate a mature 28 kDa cysteine proteinase. Furthermore, we show that S. pyogenes bacteria of M1 serotype are dependent on cell wall-anchored M protein to cleave the secreted zymogen into a mature cysteine proteinase. We also show that MC25 secretes a 40 kDa zymogen, having a conformation different from that secreted by wild-type bacteria. We provide data showing that the cleavage site is not blocked but, presumably, the active site is. This suggests that M protein, when anchored to the cell wall, is involved in the unfolding of the zymogen and generation of a mature cysteine proteinase that can be activated under reducing conditions. Our data add new aspects to the interaction between two important virulence factors of S. pyogenes, the streptococcal cysteine proteinase and M protein.