Cryptosporidium parvum is an intracellular protozoan parasite that causes cryptosporidiosis in mammals including humans. In the current study, the gene encoding the cysteine protease of C. parvum (cryptopain-1) was identified and the biochemical properties of the recombinant enzyme were characterized. Cryptopain-1 shared common structural properties with cathepsin L-like papain family enzymes, but lacked a typical signal peptide sequence and contained a possible transmembrane domain near the amino terminus and a unique insert in the front of the mature domain. The recombinant cryptopain-1 expressed in Escherichia coli and refolded to the active form showed typical biochemical properties of cathepsin L-like enzymes. The folding determinant of cryptopain-1 was characterized through multiple constructs with or without different lengths of the pro-domain of the enzyme expressed in E. coli and assessment of their refolding abilities. All constructs, except one that did not contain the full-length mature domain, successfully refolded into the active enzymes, suggesting that cryptopain-1 did not require the pro-domain for folding. Western blot analysis showed that cryptopain-1 was expressed in the sporozoites and the enzyme preferentially degraded proteins, including collagen and fibronectin, but not globular proteins. This suggested a probable role for cryptopain-1 in host cell invasion and/or egression by the parasite.