Human placenta is surprisingly rich in post-proline dipeptidyl peptidase activity. Among various cell fractions, microsomes have the highest specific activity. A homogeneous enzyme preparation is obtained in a six-step purification procedure. The final preparation appears homogeneous upon dodecyl sulfate electrophoresis, but analytical isoelectric focussing reveals various active bands with isoelectric points in the range of pH 3-4. The enzyme is a glycoprotein containing about 30% carbohydrate. Treatment with neuraminidase lowers the isoelectric points but does not reduce the heterogeneity of the band pattern. The subunit molecular weight is 120000 as estimated by dodecyl sulfate electrophoresis, whereas Mr of the native enzyme is greater than 200000, as can be concluded from gel filtration experiments. The purified dipeptidyl peptidase cleaves various synthetic and natural peptides, including substance P, kentsin, casomorphin and a synthetic renin inhibitor. In general, the specificity of the placenta peptidase is similar to that of post-proline dipeptidyl peptidase from other sources. Phenylalanylprolyl-beta-naphthylamide (Km = 0.02 mM, V = 92 U/mg) is the best substrate among various synthetic peptide derivatives. Only peptides with a free N-terminal amino group and proline, hydroxyproline, or alanine in position 2 of the N-terminal sequence are cleaved. However, X-Pro-Pro-. . . structures, e.g. as in bradykinin, are not attacked. 1 mM bis-(4-nitrophenyl)phosphate or 1 mM diisopropylfluorophosphate completely inactivate the peptidase within 30 min at 30 degrees C (pH 8). The peptidase is also completely inhibited by 1 mM Zn2+ and by other heavy metals.