Endothelial cells are centrally involved in regulation of fibrinolysis, and receptors for plasminogen and urokinase provide a mechanism by which cells can regulate their fibrinolytic function. Therefore, the existence and characteristics of receptors for these fibrinolytic components on cultured human umbilical vein endothelial cells were examined. We verified the presence of plasminogen receptors on these cells (Kd = 2.1 +/- 1.3 mumol/L, and 1.8 +/- 1.3 x 10(7) binding sites/cell). These binding parameters and other characteristics indicate that these receptors are closely related to the plasminogen receptors on many circulating and adherent cells. Specific binding sites that interact with two-chain urokinase of mol wt 55,000 with a dissociation constant of 2.1 +/- 1.7 nmol/L, with 2.9 +/- 2.9 x 10(5) sites/cell were also identified. Single-chain urokinase of mol wt 55,000, but not the two-chain degradation product of mol wt 33,000 bound to the cells, implicating the amino-terminal aspects of the ligand in receptor recognition. When endothelial cells were stimulated with thrombin, an agent that modulates their fibrinolytic potential, both receptor types were modestly affected; urokinase binding increased 17%, whereas plasminogen binding decreased 19%. The presence and modulation of plasminogen and urokinase receptors provide a potentially important additional mechanism by which endothelial cells may regulate fibrinolysis.