The efficient transport of proteins along the secretory pathway requires that the polypeptide adopts a stably folded conformation to egress the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). The transport-competent precursor of the brush border enzyme LPH, pro-LPH, undergoes an intracellular cleavage process in the trans-Golgi network between Arg(734) and Leu(735) to yield LPH beta(initial). The role of the prodomain comprising the N-terminally located 734 amino acids of pro-LPH, LPH alpha, in the folding events of LPH beta(initial) has been analyzed by the individual expression of both forms in COS-1 cells. Following synthesis at 37 degrees C LPH beta(initial) acquires a misfolded and enzymatically inactive conformation that is degraded by trypsin. A temperature shift to 20 degrees C generates a stable, trypsin-resistant, and enzymatically active LPH beta(initial) indicating that the individual expression of LPH beta(initial) results in a temperature-sensitive conformation. This form interacts at non-permissive temperatures sequentially with the ER chaperones immunoglobulin-binding protein and calnexin resulting in an ER retention. The LPH alpha prodomain resides in the ER when individually expressed. It reveals compact structural features that are stabilized by disulfide bridges. LPH alpha and LPH beta(initial) readily interact with each other upon coexpression, and this interaction appears to trigger the formation of a trypsin-resistant, correctly folded, enzymatically active, and transport-competent LPH beta(initial) polypeptide. These data clearly demonstrate that the proregion of pro-LPH is an intramolecular chaperone that is critically essential in facilitating the folding of the intermediate form LPH beta(initial) in the context of the pro-LPH polypeptide.