GrdE and PrdA of Clostridium sticklandii are subunits of glycine reductase and D-proline reductase, respectively, that are processed post-translationally to form a catalytic active pyruvoyl group. The cleavage occurred on the N-terminal side of a cysteine residue, which is thus the precursor of a pyruvoyl moiety. Both proproteins could be over-expressed in Escherichia coli and conditions were developed for in vitro processing. GrdE could be expressed as full-size protein, whereas PrdA had to be truncated N-terminally to achieve successful over-expression. Both proproteins were cleaved at the in vivo observed cleavage site after addition of 200 mM NaBH4 in Tris buffer (pH 7.6) at room temperature as analysed by SDS/PAGE and MS. Cleavage of GrdE was observed with a half-time of approximately 30 min. Cys242, as the precursor of the pyruvoyl group in GrdE, was changed to alanine, serine, or threonine by site-directed mutagenesis. The Cys242-->Ser and Cys242-->Thr mutant proteins were also cleaved under similar conditions with extended half-times. However, the Cys242-->Ala mutant protein was not cleaved indicating a pivotal role of the thiol group of cysteine or hydroxyl group of serine and threonine during the processing of pyruvoyl group-dependent reductases.