BACKGROUND:Dust mites have been shown to contain a serine protease distinct from the previously reported trypsin and chymotrypsin. The latter enzymes have been shown to be allergens, but the allergenic importance of the former is unknown. OBJECTIVE:This study was performed to isolate and characterize the novel mite serine protease and determine its allergenicity. METHODS:The mite serine protease was isolated from feces-enriched extracts of Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus by ion-exchange chromatography and affinity chromatography, and its physicochemical properties were determined. The allergenicity of the protease was assessed by using the RAST. RESULTS:The protease was enzymatically similar to chymotrypsin and cathepsin G-like enzymes from a variety of sources and was shown to cleave collagen. It had a molecular mass of 23,780 d. N-terminal sequence analysis (18 residues) indicated homology with the mite tryptic allergen, Der p 3, and the chymotryptic allergen, Der p 6. RAST analyses showed that the frequencies of reactivity to the novel allergen and to Der p 1, Der p 2, Der p 3, and Der p 6 were 92%, 97%, 100%, 97%, and 65%, respectively (n = 35). RAST inhibition studies showed some cross-reactivity between the protease and Der p 3 but not Der p 6. CONCLUSIONS:A novel mite serine protease was isolated from D. pteronyssinus and found to be a major allergen. This allergen has been tentatively designated Der p 9.