Serum-free conditioned medium (CM) from cultured bovine aortic endothelial cells (BAEs) was fractionated by polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis in the presence of sodium dodecyl sulfate and analyzed for plasminogen activator (PA) activity by fibrin autography. Distinct size forms of PA with molecular weights (mol wt) of 100,000, 74,000, and 52,000 were readily identified by this approach. When fibrinogen and thrombin were added to CM containing these forms, approximately 55% of the total activity was found to associate with the resultant fibrin clot. The other 45% remained free in the supernatant. This relationship did not change at higher fibrin concentrations. Subsequent analysis revealed that only the larger PA forms (mol wt 74,000-100,000) were recovered in the clot. The 52,000 form did not bind to the polymerizing fibrin under these conditions. The fibrin-binding forms also bound to immobilized concanavalin-A and could be separated from those forms that did not interact with fibrin by concanavalin-A affinity chromatography. The PA activity of the separated forms was then compared by assessing their ability to cleave 125I-plasminogen. Although cleavage by the 52,000 mol wt form was apparent, little if any cleavage was initiated by the mixture containing the 74,000-100,000 forms. The addition of fibrin to this sample resulted in the generation of a potent PA activity. These results indicate that cultured BAEs produce multiple forms of PA that differ both in size and in behavior toward fibrin and concanavalin-A. These forms include molecules that functionally and immunochemically resemble human urokinase, and others that resemble human tissue-type PA.