The proteinases of Porphyromonas gingivalis are key virulence factors in the etiology and progression of periodontal disease. Previous work in our laboratories resulted in the purification of arginine- and lysine-specific cysteine proteinases, designated gingipains, that consist of several tightly associated protein subunits. Recent characterization of arginine-specific gingipain-1 (gingipain R1; RGP-1) revealed that the sequence is unique and that the protein subunits are initially translated as a polyprotein encoding a proteinase domain and multiple adhesin domains (Pavloff, N., Potempa, J., Pike, R. N., Prochazka, V., Kiefer, M. C., Travis, J., and Barr, P. J. (1995) J. Biol. Chem. 270, 1007-1010). We now show that the lysine-specific gingipain (gingipain K; KGP) is also biosynthesized as a polyprotein precursor that contains a proteinase domain that is 22% homologous to the proteinase domain of RGP-1 and multiple adhesin domains. This precursor is similarly processed at distinct sites to yield active KGP. The key catalytic residues in the proteinase domain of KGP are identical to those found in RGP- 1, but there are significant differences elsewhere within this domain that likely contribute to the altered substrate specificity of KGP. Independent expression of the proteinase domain in insect cells has shown that KGP does not require the presence of the adhesin domains for correct folding to confer proteolytic activity.