Glu-plasminogen, the native form of plasminogen, interacts in a specific and saturable manner with unstimulated human platelets, and the binding is enhanced fivefold by thrombin stimulation (Miles and Plow, 1985. J. Biol. Chem. 260:4303). This study characterizes the nature of the Glu-plasminogen binding sites by analyzing platelets deficient in selected proteins and functions. Platelets from patients with afibrinogenemia, Gray platelet syndrome, and the Cam Variant of thrombasthenia, a form of thrombasthenia with near normal levels of glycoprotein IIb/IIIa (GPIIb/IIIa), showed minimal augmentation of plasminogen binding to thrombin-stimulated platelets but normal binding to unstimulated platelets. This selective deficiency indicates that two distinct mechanisms are involved in the interaction of plasminogen with platelets. These abnormal platelets share a deficiency in fibrinogen. Surface expression of platelet fibrinogen, however, was not sufficient for enhanced plasminogen binding to stimulated platelets, and experiments with alpha-thrombin and gamma-thrombin indicated that fibrin formation on the platelet surface is necessary for the augmented plasminogen binding. Unstimulated and stimulated thrombasthenic platelets deficient in GPIIb/IIIa bound markedly reduced levels of plasminogen, which suggests a role for GPIIb/IIIa in plasminogen binding to unstimulated platelets. Treatment of platelets to dissociate the heterodimeric complex of GPIIb/IIIa did not significantly perturb plasminogen binding to unstimulated platelets, but the complex may be necessary for thrombin-stimulated plasminogen binding via its interaction with platelet fibrin.