Acyl-peptide hydrolase catalyzes the removal of an N(α)-acetylated amino acid residue from an N(α)-acetylated peptide. Two overlapping degenerate oligonucleotide probes based on the sequence of a CNBr tryptic peptide, derived from purified rat acyl-peptide hydrolase, were synthesized and used to screen a rat liver λgt11 cDNA library. A 2.5-kilobase cDNA was cloned and sequenced. This clone contained 2364 base pairs of rat acyl-peptide hydrolase sequence but lacked a translational initiation codon. Using a 220-base pair probe derived from near the 5'-end of this almost full-length cDNA to rescreen the library, full-length clones were isolated, which contained an in-frame ATG codon at nucleotides 6-8 and encoded the NH2-terminal sequence, Met-Glu-Arg-Gln.... The DNA sequence encoded a protein of 732 amino acid residues, 40% of which were confirmed by protein sequence data from 19 CNBr or CNBr tryptic peptides. The isolated enzyme is NH2-terminally blocked (Kobayashi, K., and Smith, J.A. (1987) J. Biol. Chem. 262, 11435-11445), and based on the NH2-terminal protein sequence deduced from the DNA sequence and the sequence of the most NH2-terminal CNBr peptide, it is likely that the NH2-terminal residue is an acetylated methionine residue, since such residues are frequently juxtaposed to glutamyl residues (Persson, B., Flinta, C., von Heijne, G., and Jornvall, H. (1985) Eur. J. Biochem. 152, 523-527). The RNA blot analysis revealed a single message of 2.7 kilobases in various rat tissues examined. Although this enzyme is known to be inhibited by diisopropyl fluorophosphate and acetylalanine chloromethyl ketone (Kobayashi, K., and Smith, J.A. (1987) J. Biol. Chem. 262, 11435-11445), no strong similarity in protein sequence has been found with other serine proteases. This result suggests that acyl-peptide hydrolase may be a unique serine protease.