We have recently demonstrated that synthetic peptides modeled on the extension peptide of malate dehydrogenase can be a good substrate of mitochondrial processing peptidase and that arginine residues present at positions -2 or -3 and distant from the cleavage point were important for recognition by the enzyme (Niidome, T., Kitada, S., Shimokata, K., Ogishima, T., and Ito, A. (1994) J. Biol. Chem. 269, 24719-24722). We further investigated the elements required for substrates of the protease. To analyze the reaction by a more rapid yet quantitative method, we have developed intramolecularly quenched fluorescent substrates. Using the fluorogenic substrates we demonstrated that at least one of the proline and glycine between the distal and proximal arginine residues was also important while other connecting sequences were dispensable. In addition, the protease showed considerable preference for aromatic and, to a lesser extent, hydrophobic amino acids in the P1'-position. These results together with the previous data suggest that the proximal and distal arginine residues, proline and/or glycine between them, and P1' amino acid could be critical determinants for the specific cleavage of the substrates by the protease.