To date zinc carboxypeptidases have only been found in animals and actinomycete bacteria. A cDNA clone (MeCPA) for a novel fungal (Metarhizium anisopliae) carboxypeptidase (MeCPA) was obtained by using reverse transcription differential display polymerase chain reaction to identify pathogenicity genes. MeCPA resembles pancreatic carboxypeptidases in being synthesized as a precursor species (418 amino acids) containing a large amino-terminal fragment (99 amino acids). The mature (secreted) form of MeCPA shows closest amino acid identity to human carboxypeptidases A1 (35%) and A2 (37%). MeCPA was expressed in an insect cell line yielding an enzyme with dual A1 + A2 specificity for branched aliphatic and aromatic COOH-terminal amino acids. However, in contrast to the very broad spectrum A + B-type bacterial enzymes, MeCPA lacks B-type activity against charged amino acids. This is predictable as key catalytic residues determining the specificity of MeCPA are conserved with those of mammalian A-type carboxypeptidases. Thus, in evolutionary terms the fungal enzyme is an intermediate between the divergence of A and B forms and the differentiation of the A form into A1 and A2 isoforms. Ultrastructural immunocytochemistry of infected host (Manduca sexta) cuticle demonstrated that MeCPA participates with the concurrently produced endoproteases in procuring nutrients; an equivalent function to digestive pancreatic enzymes.