Caspase-14 is a cysteine endoproteinase that is expressed in the epidermis and a limited number of other tissues. It is activated during keratinocyte differentiation by zymogen processing, but its precise function is unknown. To obtain caspase-14 for functional studies, we engineered and expressed a constitutively active form of human caspase-14 (Rev-hC14) in Escherichia coli and cultured mammalian cells. Rev-hC14 required no proteolytic processing for activity, showed strong activity against the caspase substrate WEHD, and was inhibited by the pan-caspase inhibitor zVAD-fmk. Mammalian cells that expressed active caspase-14 showed normal cell adherence and morphology. Using positional scanning of synthetic tetrapeptide libraries, we determined the substrate preference of human caspase-14 to be W (or Y)-X-X-D. These studies affirm that caspase-14 has a substrate specificity similar to the group I caspases, and demonstrate that it functions in a distinct manner from executioner caspases to carry out specific proteolytic events during keratinocyte differentiation.