Latent human PMN leucocyte collagenase (enzyme-inhibitor complex) was shown to require zinc for the property of being activatable by various disulfides [see Macartney, H.W. and Tschesche, H. (1980) FEBS Lett. 119, 327--332]. The active enzyme also requires zinc for activity, indicating a possible participation in the enzyme's reaction mechanism and/or stabilization of the active site. The zinc in the latent enzyme may be removed by dialysis against EDTA, or cysteine. This produces a zinc-free latent enzyme which cannot be activated by any of the disulfide-containing activators. Readdition of zinc to the EDTA-inhibited latent enzyme, at the same concentration as the EDTA, produces an activatable latent enzyme once again. However, excessive zinc concentrations (more than three times the concentration of EDTA) exhibited an inhibitory effect on the activation process. Thereafter the inhibitor cannot be removed by disulfides from the enzyme-inhibitor complex of the latent enzyme. The zinc in the latent enzyme may be replaced by other double-positive metal ions such as cobalt, manganese, magnesium and copper.