Furin, which is encoded by the recently discovered FUR gene, appears to be the first known mammalian member of the subtilisin family of serine proteases with cleavage selectivity for paired or multiple basic residues. A consensus cleavage sequence, Arg-X-Lys/Arg-Arg has been proposed. Most likely, furin is primarily involved in the processing of precursors of proteins that are secreted via the constitutive secretory pathway. Homology modelling of the catalytic domain of this protein suggested that negatively charged amino acid residues near or in the substrate binding region might contribute to the observed specificity for substrate segments with paired and multiple basic amino acid residues. To investigate this hypothesis, furin mutants were generated in which negatively charged residues, predicted to be located near or in the substrate binding pockets and involved in interactions with basic residues of the substrate, were replaced by neutral residues. Analysis of processing by these furin mutants of wild-type and cleavage mutants of pro-von Willebrand factor (pro-vWF) revealed that particular negatively charged residues are critical for specific cleavage activity.