Cellular immune responses can elicit local deposition of fibrin at the site of immunologic reactions, as well as the formation of intravascular fibrin in disseminated reactions. The subsequent physiologic proteolysis of fibrinogen and fibrin by plasmin results in small peptides that suppress lymphocyte functions in vitro and in the immune response in vivo. The intramolecular origin of lymphocyte suppressive activity and the proteolytic events responsible for the release of active peptides have been analyzed. Plasmic peptides from the isolated B beta and gamma constituent chains of fibrinogen did not inhibit mitogen-driven responses of human peripheral blood mononuclear cells. In contrast, plasmic digests of the A alpha chain, but not the intact A alpha chain were suppressive. Advanced plasmic digests of fibrinogen and the A alpha chain were suppressive at similar concentrations, suggesting that biological activity is derived predominantly from the A alpha chain. Limited plasmic digests of fibrinogen were fractionated to yield a heat-precipitable 250,000 dalton fragment X and heat-soluble proteolytic products containing fragments derived from the carboxyl-terminal region of the A alpha chain including a 42,000 dalton major A alpha chain derivative. Neither fragment X nor derivatives produced by its additional plasmic proteolysis were suppressive. In contrast, the heat-soluble fraction from limited plasmic cleavage was suppressive, and this activity was enhanced 10-fold by additional plasmic cleavage of this fraction. The isolated 42,000 dalton A alpha chain fragment was devoid of activity, but plasmic digestion of this derivative generated peptides of less than 8000 daltons that inhibited mitogen-stimulated thymidine uptake by lymphocytes. Two synthetic peptides corresponding to A alpha 220-230 and B beta 43-47, peptides with known vasoactive activities, suppressed lymphocyte thymidine uptake at very high concentrations. Based on their maximal yield from plasmic digests of fibrinogen, these two peptides would account for only 1% of the immunosuppressive activity of fibrinogen derivatives. In summary, the results indicate that the suppressive activity of fibrinogen is predominantly derived from the 42,000 dalton carboxyl terminal region of the A alpha chain of the molecule and is not attributable to the known vasoactive peptides. Initial proteolytic release of this region from the core of fibrinogen does not result in suppressive activity, but additional cleavage releases small peptides with the lymphocyte inhibitory function.