The identification of proteinases of Porphyromonas gingivalis that act as virulence factors in periodontal disease has important implications in the study of host-pathogen interactions as well as in the discovery of potential therapeutic and immunoprophylactic agents. We have cloned and characterized a gene that encodes the 50-kDa cysteine proteinase gingipain or Arg-gingipain-1 (RGP-1) described previously (Chen, Z., Potempa, J., Polanowski, A., Wikstrom, M., and Travis, J. (1992) J. Biol. Chem. 267, 18896-18901). Analysis of the amino acid sequence of RGP-1 deduced from the cloned DNA sequence showed that the biosynthesis of this proteinase involves processing of a polyprotein that contains multiple adhesin molecules located at its carboxyl terminus. This finding corroborates previous evidence (Pike R., McGraw, W., Potempa, J., and Travis, J. (1994) J. Biol. Chem. 269, 406-411) that RGP-1 is closely associated with adhesin molecules, and that high molecular weight forms of the proteinase are involved in the binding of erythrocytes.