HtrA heat shock protease is highly conserved in evolution, and in Escherichia coli, it protects the cell by degradation of proteins denatured by heat and oxidative stress, and also degrades misfolded proteins with reduced disulfide bonds. The mature, 48-kDa HtrA undergoes partial autocleavage with formation of two approximately 43 kDa truncated polypeptides. We showed that under reducing conditions, the HtrA level in cells was increased and efficient autocleavage occurred, while heat shock and oxidative shock caused the increase of HtrA level, but not the autocleavage. Purified HtrA cleaved itself during proteolysis of substrates but only under reducing conditions. These results indicate that the autocleavage is triggered specifically by proteolysis under reducing conditions, and is a physiological process occurring in cells. Conformations of reduced and oxidized forms of HtrA differed as judged by SDS-PAGE, indicating presence of a disulfide bridge in native protein. HtrA mutant protein lacking Cys57 and Cys69 was autocleaved even without the reducing agents, which indicates that the cysteines present in the N-terminal region are necessary for stabilization of HtrA peptide. Autocleavage caused the native, hexameric HtrA molecules dissociate into monomers that were still proteolytically active. This shows that the N-terminal part of HtrA is essential for maintaining quaternary structure of HtrA.