The enzyme EC 220.127.116.11 (EP 24.15) is a zinc metalloendopeptidase whose precise function in vivo remains unknown but is thought to participate in the regulated metabolism of a number of specific neuropeptides. The lack of stable and selective inhibitors has hindered the determination of the exact function of EP 24.15. Of the limited number of EP 24.15 inhibitors that have been developed, N-[1-(R,S)-carboxy-3-phenylpropyl]-Ala-Ala-Tyr-p-aminobenzoate (CFP) is the most widely studied. CFP is a potent and specific inhibitor, but it is unstable in vivo due to cleavage between the alanine and tyrosine residues by the enzyme neprilysin (EP 24.11). This cleavage by EP 24.11 generates a potent inhibitor of angiotensin converting enzyme, thereby limiting the use of CFP for in vivo studies. To develop specific inhibitors of EP 24.15 that are resistant to in vitro and potentially in vivo proteolysis by EP 24.11, this study incorporated beta-amino acids replacing the Ala-Tyr scissile alpha-amino acids of CFP. Both C2 and C3 substituted beta-amino acids were synthesized and substituted at the EP 24.11 scissile Ala-Tyr bond. Significant EP 24.15 inhibitory activity was observed with some of the beta-amino acid containing analogues. Moreover, binding to EP 24.11 was eliminated, thus rendering all analogues containing beta-amino acids resistant to degradation by EP 24.11. Selective inhibition of either EP 24.15 or EP 24.16 was also observed with some analogues. The results demonstrated the use of beta-amino acids in the design of inhibitors of EP 24.15 and EP 24.16 with K(i)'s in the low micromolar range. At the same time, these analogues were resistant to cleavage by the related metalloendopeptidase EP 24.11, in contrast to the alpha-amino acid based parent peptide. This study has therefore clearly shown the potential of beta-amino acids in the design of stable enzyme inhibitors and their use in generating molecules with selectivity between closely related enzymes.