Gelatin zymography revealed the presence of proteolytic activity in conditioned medium (CM) from a serum-free, non-infected Spodoptera frugiperda, Sf9 insect cell culture. Two peptidase bands at about 49 and 39 kDa were detected and found to be proform and active form of the same enzyme. The 49-kDa form was visible on zymogram gels in samples of CM taken on days 4 and 5 of an Sf9 culture, while the 39-kDa form was seen on days 6 and 7. On basis of the inhibitor profile and substrate range, the enzyme was identified as an Sf9 homologue of cathepsin L, a papain-like cysteine peptidase. After lowering the pH of Sf9 CM to 3.5, an additional peptidase band at 22 kDa appeared. This peptidase showed the same inhibitor profile, substrate range and optimum pH (5.0) as the 39-kDa form, indicating that Sf9 cathepsin L has two active forms, at 39 and 22 kDa. Addition of the cysteine peptidase inhibitor E-64c to an Sf9 culture inhibited all proteolytic activities of Sf9 cathepsin L but did not influence the proliferation of Sf9 cells.