The biosynthesis and processing of a lysosomal cysteine proteinase, cathepsin C (dipeptidylaminopeptidase I), was investigated by pulse-chase experiments in cultured rat macrophages. Cathepsin C is first synthesized as procathepsin C with a molecular mass of 55 kDa. Procathepsin C is then cleaved and modified within 1 h into mature cathepsin C with two chains of 25 and 7.8 kDa. A combination of pulse-chase experiments and the subcellular fractionation analysis showed that procathepsin C and cathepsin C are located in low-buoyant-density organelles and lysosomes, respectively. The reactivity of endoglycosidase H and N-glycanase and analysis of phosphorylation indicated that both precursor and mature cathepsin C are phosphorylated and N-glycosylated to give a high-mannose-type. The addition of 300-kDa mannose 6-phosphate receptor antiserum to the chase medium caused extensive release of procathepsin C into the medium, whereas the addition of control serum did not. The membrane association of procathepsin C was tested by successive extraction of cells pulse labeled for 75 min with hypotonic buffer, alkaline solution, and Triton X-100. Procathepsin C was totally extracted by hypotonic solution, whereas procathepsin D was a membrane-associated form requiring Triton X-100 for its extraction. Gel-filtration chromatography analysis of the pulse-labeled products revealed that the precursor product exists as an oligomeric form. It is suggested that the oligomerization of cathepsin C occurs before its entry into lysosomes.