The development of inhibitors of protein tyrosine kinases (PTKs) is a promising approach to obtaining new therapeutic agents for a variety of diseases, particularly cancer. However, the discovery of peptide-based inhibitors has been hindered by the lack of small peptide substrate sequences (i.e. five residues or less) with which a variety of inhibitor designs could be readily evaluated by replacing the Tyr with natural and unnatural amino acids. These prototypical small peptide inhibitors could then form the basis for designing analogous conformationally constrained, peptide-mimetic or non-peptide inhibitors with improved therapeutic potential. In this study we have identified the best known small peptide substrate for the PTK pp60c-src, which is the parent of the src family of nonreceptor PTKs. This pentapeptide substrate, Ac-Ile-Tyr-Gly-Glu-Phe-NH2, has a Km of 368 μM and Vmax of 1.02 μmol/min/mg when tested utilizing the assay methodology of Budde et al. (Anal. Biochem. 1992, 200, 347-351) after a series of modifications were made to more closely simulate the conditions inside a typical mammalian cell. This substrate was designed from information obtained by Songyang et al. (Nature 1995, 373, 536-539) with a 2.5 billion member combinatorial library of peptide substrates for pp60c-src. A second pentapeptide substrate, Ac-Glu-Asp-Ala-Ile-Tyr-NH2, with a weaker binding affinity (Km = 880 μM) but improved Vmax (1.86 μmol/min/mg), was also identified. This peptide was designed from the pp60c-src autophosphorylation sequence and information obtained by Songyang et al. (Ibid.) and Till et al. (J. Biol. Chem. 1994, 269, 7423-7428) with combinatorial libraries of peptide substrates. These new substrates provide sufficient binding affinities and rates of phosphorylation to be utilized for evaluating the relative effectiveness of various reversible and mechanism-based irreversible inhibitor designs for pp60c-src while appended to easily prepared small peptides.