Serine proteases are secreted from cells as single-chain zymogens, typically having activities orders of magnitude lower than those of the mature two-chain enzymes. Activation occurs by a conformational change initiated by cleavage of a specific peptide bond. We have derived a monoclonal antibody (mAb-112) which binds with subnanomolar affinity to pro-uPA, the zymogen form of urokinase-type plasminogen activator (uPA). We mapped the epitope of the antibody to the autolysis loop, one of the structural elements known to change conformation during zymogen activation. A mechanistic evaluation with biophysical methods elucidated a novel bifunctional inhibitory mechanism whereby mAb-112 not only delays the proteolytic conversion of single-chain pro-uPA into the two-chain form but also subsequently averts the conformational transition to a mature protease by sequestering the two-chain form in a zymogen-like, noncatalytic state. Functional studies employing two variants of human HT-1080 cells, exhibiting high and low levels of dissemination in a chorioallantoic membrane assay, demonstrate that mAb-112 is an effective inhibitor of tumor cell intravasation. These findings show that pharmacological interference with zymogen activation is a plausible and robust means to regulate uPA activity and the downstream effects of plasminogen activation in the spread of cancer and other processes of pathological tissue remodeling. A strategy that targets regions related to pro-enzyme activation likely provide a unique inhibitor-protease interaction surface and is, thus, expected to enhance the chances of engineering high inhibitor specificity. Our results provide new information about the structural flexibility underlying the equilibrium between active and inactive forms of serine proteases.