Papain-like cysteine proteases of pathogenic protozoa play important roles in parasite growth, differentiation and host cell invasion. The main cysteine proteases of Trypanosoma cruzi (cruzipain) and of Trypanosoma brucei (brucipain) are validated targets for the development of new chemotherapies. These proteases are synthesized as precursors and activated upon removal of the N-terminal prodomain. Here we report potent and selective inhibition of cruzipain and brucipain by the recombinant full-length prodomain of cruzipain. The propeptide did not inhibit human cathepsins S, K or B or papain at the tested concentrations, and moderately inhibited human cathepsin V. Human cathepsin F was very efficiently inhibited (K(i) of 32 pm), an interesting finding indicating that cruzipain propeptide is able to discriminate cathepsin F from other cathepsin L-like enzymes. Comparative structural modeling and analysis identified the interaction between the beta1p-alpha3p loop of the propeptide and the propeptide-binding loop of mature enzymes as a plausible cause of the observed inhibitory selectivity.