A protein of 40 kD molecular weight was isolated from the salivary submandibular glands of male rats. The protein catalyzed the hydrolysis of alpha-N-benzoyl-L-arginine ethyl ester. This esterase activity was inhibitable with the protease inhibitor aprotinin. The sequence of the first 25 amino acids of this protein was identical to that of rat glandular kallikrein (rGK). When added to cultures of murine lymph node cells suboptimally stimulated with the T cell mitogen concanavalin A, rGK markedly stimulated the proliferative activity of these cells. When injected into mice, rGK suppressed the contact sensitivity response to picryl chloride, a form of delayed-type hypersensitivity. Similar in vitro and in vivo effects were induced with GK from porcine pancreas (pGK). Moreover, the aforementioned in vitro and in vivo effects were abolished by aprotinin either added to the tissue culture medium or injected into the animals immediately before rGK or pGK. This demonstrates that the enzymatic activity of rGK and pGK is important for the induction of immunoregulatory effects. These results suggest that rGK is a systemic immunoregulatory enzyme with immunosuppressive potential. GK is the first example for systemic immunoregulation by an enzyme, the secretion of which is under neuroendocrine control.