A chymotrypsin-like proteinase was isolated from the posterior midgut of larvae of the yellow mealworm, Tenebrio molitor, by ion-exchange and gel filtration chromatography. The enzyme, TmC1, was purified to homogeneity as determined by SDS-PAGE and postelectrophoretic activity detection. TmC1 had a molecular mass of 23.0 kDa, pI of 8.4, a pH optimum of 9.5, and the optimal temperature for activity was 51 degrees C. The proteinase displayed high stability at temperatures below 43 degrees C and in the pH range 6.5-11.2, which is inclusive of the pH of the posterior and middle midgut. The enzyme hydrolyzed long chymotrypsin peptide substrates SucAAPFpNA, SucAAPLpNA and GlpAALpNA and did not hydrolyze short chymotrypsin substrates. Kinetic parameters of the enzymatic reaction demonstrated that the best substrate was SucAAPFpNA, with k(cat app) 36.5 s(-1) and K(m) 1.59 mM. However, the enzyme had a lower K(m) for SucAAPLpNA, 0.5 mM. Phenylmethylsulfonyl fluoride (PMSF) was an effective inhibitor of TmC1, and the proteinase was not inhibited by either tosyl-l-phenylalanine chloromethyl ketone (TPCK) or N(alpha)-tosyl-l-lysine chloromethyl ketone (TLCK). However, the activity of TmC1 was reduced with sulfhydryl reagents. Several plant and insect proteinaceous proteinase inhibitors were active against the purified enzyme, the most effective being Kunitz soybean trypsin inhibitor (STI). The N-terminal sequence of the enzyme was IISGSAASKGQFPWQ, which was up to 67% similar to other insect chymotrypsin-like proteinases and 47% similar to mammalian chymotrypsin A. The amino acid composition of TmC1 differed significantly from previously isolated T. molitor enzymes.