We have isolated a cDNA that encodes a novel serine protease, prosemin, from human brain. The cDNA of human prosemin is 1306 bp, encoding 317 amino acids. It showed significant homology with the sequence of a chromosome 16 cosmid clone (accession no. NT_037887.4). The prosemin gene contains six exons and five introns. The amino acid sequence of prosemin shows significant homology to prostasin, gamma-tryptase, and testisin (43%, 41%, and 38% identity, respectively), the genes of which are also located on chromosome 16. Northern hybridization showed that prosemin is expressed predominantly in the pancreas and weakly in the prostate and cerebellum. However, western blot and RT-PCR analyses showed that prosemin is expressed and secreted from various kinds of cancer cells, such as glioma, pancreas, prostate, and ovarian cell lines. Prosemin is secreted in the cystic fluid of clinical ovarian cancers. Furthermore, immunohistochemistry showed prosemin protein localized in the apical parts of ovarian carcinomas. Recombinant prosemin was expressed in COS cells and was purified by immunoaffinity chromatography. Recombinant prosemin preferentially cleaved benzyloxycarbonyl (Z)-His-Glu-Lys-methylcoumaryl amidide (MCA) and t-butyloxycarbonyl (Boc)-Gln-Ala-Arg-MCA. Our results suggest that prosemin is a novel serine protease of the chromosome 16 cluster that is highly expressed in the pancreas. The usefulness of this serine protease as a candidate tumor marker should be further examined.