Bovine thrombin and human factor Xa were acylated at their active site selectively with inhibitors derived from the parent compound 4-guanidinophenyl (E)-4-diethylamino-2-hydroxy-alpha-methylcinnamate hydrochloride, 1b. Peptidyl side chains were attached to the phenol ring via amide connection, which served as a recognition motif in inhibiting different serine proteases. Upon irradiation with 366 nm light, the trans-cinnamate attached to the active-site serine isomerizes to the cis isomer which then rapidly lactonizes to release the free enzyme. The peptidyl side chain sequences specific for each serine protease were revealed via constructing and screening a library of homologous compounds. This methodology may be applied to other proteases. One application based on enzyme-specific, photoactivatable inhibitors is to isolate a designated active protease from a mixture of several proteases. Thus, a cinnamate inhibitor with a biotin moiety, 1d, was synthesized. A solution of enzyme-specific, biotinylated inhibitor was added into a mixture of proteases containing a target enzyme. The target enzyme was acylated at the active site and subsequently bore a biotin tail. An avidin column was used to separate the biotinylated enzyme from the unmodified ones, by a strong binding between biotin and avidin. After a brief irradiation on the avidin column, the retained enzymes were released from the biotin tag and eluted off the column. To demonstrate the idea, thrombin and factor Xa have been separated from each other by this strategy.