Meprin A and B are highly regulated, secreted, and cell-surface metalloendopeptidases that are abundantly expressed in the kidney and intestine. Meprin oligomers consist of evolutionarily related alpha and/or beta subunits. The work herein was carried out to identify bioactive peptides and proteins that are susceptible to hydrolysis by mouse meprins and kinetically characterize the hydrolysis. Gastrin-releasing peptide fragment 14-27 and gastrin 17, regulatory molecules of the gastrointestinal tract, were found to be the best peptide substrates for meprin A and B, respectively. Peptide libraries and a variety of naturally occurring peptides revealed that the meprin beta subunit has a clear preference for acidic amino acids in the P1 and P1' sites of substrates. The meprin alpha subunit selected for small (e.g. serine, alanine) or hydrophobic (e.g. phenylalanine) residues in the P1 and P1' sites, and proline was the most preferred amino acid at the P2' position. Thus, although the meprin alpha and beta subunits share 55% amino acid identity within the protease domain and are normally localized at the same tissue cell surfaces, they have very different substrate and peptide bond specificities indicating different functions. Homology models of the mouse meprin alpha and beta protease domains, based on the astacin crystal structure, revealed active site differences that can account for the marked differences in substrate specificity of the two subunits.