The oral anaerobic bacterium Porphyromonas gingivalis has been implicated as a major etiologic agent of progressive periodontal disease. A novel lysine-specific cysteine proteinase, termed "Lys-gingipain," was purified from the culture supernatant of the Arg-gingipain-deficient mutant of P. gingivalis (KDP112) by a simple method including immunoaffinity chromatography. The purified enzyme was found to be composed of a single polypeptide of Mr=51,000. Analysis of the enzymatic properties revealed several distinctive features of this enzyme. The proteolytic activity was remarkably activated by thiol-reducing agents and inhibited by idoacetamide, idoacetic acid, and leupeptin. The enzyme was also inhibited by the chloromethyl ketones of tosyl-L-lysine and tosyl-L-phenylalanine. However, internal protease inhibitors, such as cystatins and alpha1-antichymotrypsin, had no effect on the activity, suggesting its resistance to normal host defense systems in vivo. Despite its narrow specificity for synthetic substrates containing Lys in the P1 site, the enzyme extensively degraded human type I collagen and immunoglobulins G and A (both serum and secretory types). Most important, the enzyme was able to disrupt the functions of polymorphonuclear leukocytes, as shown by its inhibitory effect on the generation of active oxygen species from the activated cells. These results suggest that Lys-gingipain, like Arg-gingipain, plays a crucial role as a virulence factor from P. gingivalis in the development of periodontal disease via the direct destruction of periodontal tissue components and the disruption of normal host defense mechanisms.