The lymphocyte-specific protein-tyrosine kinase p56lck has been purified 90-fold to approximately 30% purity in 30% yield from a baculovirus expression system by a two-column purification procedure. At least two forms of p56lck were isolated, differing in the extent of phosphorylation and migrating as 56- and 59-kDa species on SDS/PAGE but as a single 56-kDa band after treatment with potato acid phosphatase. Autophosphorylation of purified p56lck occurred at a rate of 25 fmol/min to a maximum incorporation of approximately 2 mol of phosphate per mol of p56lck with tyrosine-394 (but not tyrosine-505) and other, unidentified tyrosine residue(s) being the major sites of phosphorylation in vitro. Phosphorylation of tyrosine-containing peptides was monitored using an automated HPLC system. Although peptide substrate Km values were in the 1-5 mM range, the Vmax for the 13-amino acid peptide RRLIEDAEYAARG (modified p60src autophosphorylation site) was 120 min-1 (350 min-1 when adjusted for p56lck purity), suggesting that the enzyme purified from recombinant baculovirus-infected Sf9 cells has a high catalytic turnover compared with other tyrosine kinases.