Lysyl oxidase (LO) plays a critical role in the formation and repair of the extracellular matrix (ECM) by oxidizing lysine residues in elastin and collagen, thereby initiating the formation of covalent crosslinkages which stabilize these fibrous proteins. Its catalytic activity depends upon both its copper cofactor and a unique carbonyl cofactor and has been shown to extend to a variety of basic globular proteins, including histone H1. Although the three-dimensional structure of LO has yet to be determined, the present treatise offers hypotheses based upon its primary sequence, which may underlie the prominent electrostatic component of its unusual substrate specificity as well as the catalysis-suppressing function of the propeptide domain of prolysyl oxidase. Recent studies have demonstrated that LO appears to function within the cell in a manner, which strongly modifies cellular activity. Newly discovered LO-like proteins also likely play unique roles in biology. © 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.