An aspartic endopeptidase was purified in our laboratory from Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) microplus eggs [Logullo, C., Vaz, I.S., Sorgine, M.H., Paiva-Silva, G.O., Faria, F.S., Zingali, R.B., De Lima, M.F., Abreu, L., Oliveira, E.F., Alves, E.W, Masuda, H., Gonzales, J.C., Masuda, A., and Oliveira, P.L., 1998. Isolation of an aspartic proteinase precursor from the egg of a hard tick, Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) microplus. Parasitology 116, 525-532]. Boophilus yolk cathepsin (BYC) was tested as component of a protective vaccine against the tick, inducing a significant immune response in cattle [da Silva, VI., Jr., Logullo, C., Sorgine, M., Velloso, F.F., Rosa de Lima, M.F., Gonzales, J.C., Masuda, H., Oliveira, P.L., and Masuda, A., 1998. Immunization of bovines with an aspartic proteinase precursor isolated from Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) microplus eggs. Vet. Immunol. Immunopathol. 66,331-341]. In this work, BYC was cloned and its primary sequence showed high similarity with other aspartic endopeptidases. In spite of this similarity, BYC sequence shows many important differences in relation to other aspartic peptidases, the most important being the lack of the second catalytic Asp residue, considered to be essential for the catalysis of this class of endopeptidases. When we determined BYC cleavage specificity by LC-MS, we found out that it presents a preference for hydrophobic residues in P1 and P1` in accordance to most aspartic endopeptidases. Also, when analyzed by circular dicroism, BYC presented high beta sheet content, also a characteristic of aspartic endopeptidases. On the other hand, although both native and recombinant BYC are catalytically active, they present a very low specific activity, what seems to indicate that this peptidase will digest its natural substrate, vitellin, very slowly. We speculate that such a slow Vn degradative process might constitute an important strategy to preserve egg protein content to the hatching larvae. (c) 2007 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.