Prolyl oligopeptidase is the prototype of a new serine protease family, unrelated to trypsin and subtilisin. In contrast with these proteases, prolyl oligopeptidase is remarkably sensitive to ionic strength, being more active in the presence of high concentrations of salt. The enzyme has two catalytic forms, which interconvert with changing pH. To reveal the structural bases of these phenomena, the effects of 0.5 M NaCl on the stability of the enzyme were investigated by studying its denaturation as a function of pH, temperature, and urea concentration. The three independent methods have unequivocally demonstrated that denaturation of the enzyme is promoted in the presence of NaCl. Furthermore, destabilization of the low-pH form by urea is more significant than that of the high-pH form. Examination of the fluorescence emission spectra of various denatured forms indicates that the enzyme is not fully unfolded in 8 M urea, nor at acidic pH. The tryptophan residues in the acid-denatured state are mainly buried. The results are interpreted in terms of the decay of the protective water shell at the higher ionic strength. The higher enthalpy and entropy of activation for heat denaturation provide further evidence that a more ordered water structure stabilizes the protein in the absence of salt. The biphasic kinetics obtained with denaturation by heat and urea suggest that the enzyme has two domains of different stabilities.