The thermolysin-like neutral protease from Bacillus stearothermophilus (TLP-ste) is usually produced extracellularly in Bacillus subtilis, where it is expressed as preproenzyme and subsequently processed in an autocatalytic, intramolecular process. To create the basis for the production of inactive mutants of TLP-ste, which cannot be processed in B. subtilis, we studied the expression of TLP-ste and its propeptide in cis and in trans in Escherichia coli. In contrast to thermolysin, subtilisin and alpha-lytic protease, which could be obtained only in the presence of the corresponding propeptides, TLP-ste could be produced as an active mature enzyme in E. coli in the absence of its prosequence. Surprisingly, however, a much more effective access to active mature protease was found when TLP-ste (devoid of its prosequence) was expressed as protein with an N-terminal His6 tag which accumulated in the form of inclusion bodies. Completely unexpected, the protein could be renatured from the inclusion bodies after solubilization in guanidine hydrochloride solutions in high yields. Purification to homogeneity was possible by affinity chromatography on Bacitracin silica as well as by immobilized metal ion affinity chromatography. By addition of separately expressed propeptide to the renaturation mixture yields of renaturation could not be increased significantly, confirming that the propeptide is not essential for proper folding of the enzyme or its stabilization during the folding process. Also in vivo, the expression levels of active mature TLP-ste in Escherichia coli did not significantly differ when the mature sequence was expressed alone or coexpressed with the prosequence in cis or in trans.