A major cysteine proteinase (CPB) of Leishmania mexicana, that is predominantly expressed in the form of the parasite that causes disease in mammals, has been overexpressed in Escherichia coli and purified from inclusion bodies to apparent homogeneity. The CPB enzyme, CPB2.8, was expressed as an inactive pro-form lacking the characteristic C-terminal extension (CPB2.8DeltaCTE). Pro-region processing was initiated during protein refolding and proceeded through several intermediate stages. Maximum enzyme activity accompanied removal of the entire pro-region. This was facilitated by acidification. Purified mature enzyme gave a single band on SDS/PAGE and gelatin SDS/PAGE gels, co-migrated with native enzyme in L. mexicana lysates, and had the same N-terminal sequence as the native enzyme. The procedure yielded >3.5 mg of active enzyme per litre of E. coli culture.