Drug-induced gingival overgrowth, the chronic side effect of calcium antagonists, is frequently seen due to the increase in patients with hypertension, although the etiology of the disease is largely unknown. I-cell disease, which accompanies gingival overgrowth, is characterized by a deficiency in UDP-N-acetyl-glucosamine and is classified as one of the lysosomal storage diseases. Here, we hypothesized that a common mechanism may underlie the etiology of gingival overgrowth seen in patients treated with calcium antagonist and in patients with I-cell disease. A calcium antagonist, nifedipine, specifically suppressed cathepsin-L activity and mRNA expression, but not that of cathepsin-B in cultured gingival fibroblasts. The activity of cathepsin-L was suppressed up to 50% at 24 hours after treatment of the cells with the reagent. The selective suppression of cathepsin-L activity appeared not to be dependent on Ca2+, since treatment of the cells with thapsigargin suppressed both cathepsin-B and -L activity. Mice deficient in the cathepsin-L gene manifested enlarged gingivae. Histological observation of the gingivae demonstrated typical features of acanthosis, a phenotype very similar to that of experimentally induced gingival overgrowth. Since cathepsin-L deficiency was reported to be associated with thickening of the skin, impaired cathepsin-L activity may play a key role in the establishment of skin and gingival abnormalities seen in I-cell disease. In addition, reduced cathepsin-L activity may play an important role in inducing drug-induced gingival overgrowth.