Neocarzinostatin (NCS) is the most studied member of a family of chromoproteins secreted by a range of actinomycetes species. It has been proposed that in addition to their antitumoral activity related to the bound chromophores, this group of related proteins could be a secreted proteases superfamily. With the aim of dissecting the molecular basis of the proteolytic activity of NCS, an expression system allowing efficient expression of apo-NCS in Escherichia coli was constructed. The recombinant protein was properly folded and functional. Its histone-specific proteolytic activity was similar to the activity described for the natural protein. Further analyses unambiguously demonstrated that the proteolytic activity could be physically separated from NCS. This activity is therefore due not to NCS itself but to minor contaminating proteases, the nature of which differed in the recombinant and natural NCS preparations. The histone degradation test commonly used to monitor proteolytic activity is extremely sensitive and may easily generate false-positive results. These results strongly suggest that the possible proteolytic activity of the proteins of this family should be critically reconsidered.