The design of minimal units required for enzyme inhibition is a major field of interest in structural biology and biotechnology. The successful design of the cyclic dodecapeptide corresponding to the Phe17-Val28 reactive site amino acid sequence of the low-molecular-mass trypsin inhibitor RTI-III from Brassica napus (micro-RTI-III) and of the recombinant murine dihydrofolate reductase-(DHFR-)micro-RTI-III fusion protein (DHFR-micro-RTI-III) is reported here. Micro-RTI-III was synthesized using a stepwise solid-phase approach based on the standard Fmoc chemistry, purified by RP-HPLC, and oxidatively refolded. DHFR-micro-RTI-III was expressed in Escherichia coli, purified by metal-chelate affinity chromatography, and oxidatively refolded. The affinity of micro-RTI-III for bovine trypsin (K(d)=1.6x10(-9)M) is similar to that determined for DHFR-micro-RTI-III (K(d)=6.3x10(-10)M) and native RTI-III (K(d)=2.9x10(-10)M), at pH 8.2 and 22.0 degrees C. Remarkably, micro-RTI-III protects the DHFR domain of DHFR-micro-RTI-III from trypsin digestion. Micro-RTI-III is a new minimal trypsin inhibitor and may be regarded as a tool in protein structure-function studies and for developing multifunctional and multidomain proteinase inhibitors.