Two proctolin-binding proteins solubilized from 1600 cockroach hindgut membranes were purified 1000-fold using five chromatography steps. Twenty-five micrograms of protein were recovered from the final size-exclusion chromatography as a single peak eluting at 74 kDa, whereas two major bands at 80 and 76 kDa were identified after silver staining of electrophoresis gels. The fragments, sequenced by tandem mass spectrometry and the Edman method, revealed a high homology with rat liver dipeptidyl aminopeptidase (DPP) III and a significant homology between the cockroach-purified proteins. From analysis of the Drosophila genome sequence database, it was possible to identify a putative DPP sharing high homology with the sequences obtained from the cockroach purified proteins and with the rat DPP III. Anti-(rat liver DPP III) Ig reacted specifically with both cockroach-purified proteins in Western blot analysis. The purified proteins removed the N-terminal dipeptide from the insect myotropic neuropeptide proctolin (Arg-Tyr-Leu-Pro-Thr) with a Km value of 3.8 +/- 1.1 microM. The specific DPP III inhibitor tynorphin prevented the degradation of proctolin by the purified insect DPP (IC50 = 0.68 microM). These results provide strong evidence that the cockroach-purified proteins represent an insect membrane DPP, presumably present in Drosophila, and that it is closely related to vertebrate DPP III.