Pyroglutamyl peptidase can be classified as an omega peptidase which hydrolytically removes the amino terminal pyroglutamate (pGlu) residue from specific pyroglutamyl substrates. To date, three distinct forms of this enzyme have been identified in mammalian tissues. Type I is typically a cytosolic, cysteine peptidase displaying a broad pyroglutamyl substrate specificity and low molecular mass. Type II has been shown to be a membrane anchored metalloenzyme of high molecular mass with a narrow substrate specificity restricted to the hypothalamic releasing factor, thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH, pGlu-His-Pro-NH2). A third pyroglutamyl peptidase activity has also been observed in mammalian serum which displays biochemical characteristics remarkably similar to those of tissue Type II, namely a high molecular mass, sensitivity to metal chelating agents, and a narrow substrate specificity also restricted to TRH. This serum activity has subsequently been designated 'thyroliberinase'. This review surveys the biochemical, enzymatic, and structural properties of this interesting and unique class of peptidases. It also addresses the putative physiological roles which have been ascribed to these enzymes. Pyroglutamyl peptidase activities isolated and characterized from bacterial sources are also reviewed and compared with their mammalian counterparts.