Cathepsin L-like proteinase found in the eggs of the tick Ornithodoros moubata is latent during embryogenesis, but can be activated by acid treatment. In crude extracts as well as in partially purified fractions, activation requires reducing conditions and is inhibited by leupeptin, which indicates that it is mediated by a thiol proteinase, probably by the cathepsin L itself. Latency disappears in vivo at the time of the acute phase of yolk digestion, which takes place during late embryonic development and larval life. When egg cathepsin L is localized through its gelatinolytic activity on SDS-PAGE, the activated enzyme migrates as lower Mr bands than the latent form. Disappearance of the higher Mr bands corresponding to the latent form is directly related to appearance of the lower Mr bands characteristic of the active one; transition from one pattern to the other and enzymatic activation are in perfect agreement with regard to kinetics and sensitivity to inhibitors. The same pattern change occurs in vivo, parallel to latency removal and intense yolk degradation. These results strongly suggest that egg cathepsin L is stored in the yolk as a proenzyme which is activated by partial proteolysis at low pH.