Ingestion of larval nematodes (family: Anisakidae) can cause the human disease known as anisakiasis. After ingestion, Anisakis larvae can be invasive, penetrating host stomach or intestinal wall. Observation of larvae penetrating the tissue layers of human stomach in vitro by SEM showed tunnels and burrows were formed in the mucosa and submucosa. Based on these observations, we hypothesized that secreted proteases may be involved in the degradation of host tissue macromolecules to allow tunnel formation. Using a model of connective tissue extracellular matrix (ECM), we found that as few as 5 Anisakis simplex larvae could degrade approximately 25% of the ECM in a 16-mm culture well in 24 hr. Further characterization of the secreted proteases using synthetic peptide substrates and inhibitors revealed that there were 2 classes of proteases present: a metallo aminopeptidase and a trypsinlike serine protease. Extracts of Anisakis larvae contained a 25-kDa protease that was recognized by rabbit anti-rat trypsin antibody on western blots. This suggests that there is structural as well as functional similarity between the Anisakis trypsin and vertebrate trypsins.