Biochemical studies of pollen proteins have been focused, primarily, in investigating their roles as allergens. These molecules, some of which have enzymatic activity, act as antigens and initiate the production of IgE antibodies, leading to allergic and/or asthmatic responses. Included in this mixture of proteins are proteinases which, although they may or may not be allergenic, could still be involved in airway dysfunction. We have isolated an arginine-specific endopeptidase to homogeneity from mesquite (Prosopis velutina) pollen, a known wind-borne allergen, which has a molecular mass near 84 kDa by NaDodSO4-gel electrophoresis, a pH optimum in the neutral to alkaline range, and a requirement for Ca2+ for stabilization. The enzyme is inhibited by diisopropyl fluorophosphate (DFP) and N-p-tosyl-L-lysine chloromethylketone but not by N-p-tosyl-L-phenylalanine chloromethylketone, EDTA, or iodoacetamide. It was also not inhibited by human plasma proteinase inhibitors nor several other naturally occurring plant and animal inhibitors. Cleavage by the endopeptidase was primarily on the carboxy-terminal side of arginine residues in peptides, whereas proteins such as kallikrein and prothrombin were only activated and/or degraded extremely slowly. Several bioactive peptides that may be involved in maintaining normal lung function were readily fragmented, including angiotensin II, a vasoconstrictor, and atrial natriuretic peptide, a modulator of vascular permeability, both of which were rapidly cleaved at low enzyme:substrate molar ratios. Thus, the pollen endopeptidase could be involved in exacerbating the development of asthma by inactivating bioactive peptides that have ameliorating effects in maintaining lung airway homeostasis.