Limited endoproteolysis of inactive precursor proteins at sites marked by paired or multiple basic amino acids is a widespread process by which biologically active peptides and proteins are produced within the secretory pathway in eukaryotic cells. The identification of a novel family of endoproteases homologous with bacterial subtilisins and yeast Kex2p has accelerated progress in understanding the complex mechanisms underlying the production of the bioactive materials. Seven distinct proprotein convertases of this family (furin, PC2, PC1/PC3, PC4, PACE4, PC5/PC6, LPC/PC7/PC8/SPC7) have been identified in mammalian species, some having isoforms generated via alternative splicing. The family has been shown to be responsible for conversion of precursors of peptide hormones, neuropeptides, and many other proteins into their biologically active forms. Furin, the first proprotein convertase to be identified, has been most extensively studied. It has been shown to be expressed in all tissues and cell lines examined and to be mainly localized in the trans-Golgi network, although some proportion of the furin molecules cycle between this compartment and the cell surface. This endoprotease is capable of cleaving precursors of a wide variety of proteins, including growth factors, serum proteins, including proteases of the blood-clotting and complement systems, matrix metalloproteinases, receptors, viral-envelope glycoproteins and bacterial exotoxins, typically at sites marked by the consensus Arg-Xaa-(Lys/Arg)-Arg sequence. The present review covers the structure and function of mammalian subtilisin/Kex2p-like proprotein convertases, focusing on furin (EC 184.108.40.206).