The urinary type plasminogen activator, urokinase (uPA) is localized on the cell surface through the binding of a specific receptor, the uPA receptor (uPAR). The uPA localization enhances plasmin formation on the cell surface and facilitates cell migration. The cellular and tissue distribution of uPAR is not fully established. We have analyzed uPAR expression in nine leukemic cell lines of distinct lineages and maturational states and correlated this with expression of plasminogen receptors, tissue-type plasminogen activator (tPA) receptors and LDL receptor-related protein (LRP). The most immature and least differentiated cell line (an erythro-myeloid cell line) and cells of lymphoid lineage, did not express uPAR, whereas cells differentiated along the myelo-monocytic pathway displayed this receptor. Plasminogen and tPA receptors were expressed by all leukemic cell lines and by all nucleated peripheral blood cells but B and T lymphocytes were negative for cell surface expression of both uPAR and LRP while monocytes and neutrophils were positive for expression of both uPAR and LRP. PMA stimulation induced surface expression of uPAR in lymphocytes but did not induce expression of LRP by these cells. In contrast, lymphoid cell lines were negative for uPAR expression even after PMA stimulation, indicating differences in regulation of uPAR expression between lymphocytes and lymphoid cell lines. The pattern of uPAR expression on leukemic cell lines was also studied on bone marrow blast cells from leukemic patients. Only the most mature myeloid cells expressed uPAR on their surfaces. In contrast, M3 leukemic cells and other blast cells displaying lymphoid markers such as TdT (+) and/or CD2 (+) did not express intracellular or cell-surface associated uPAR, indicating an heterogeneity among these promyelocytic cells and suggesting that uPAR may be a useful marker for leukemia typing. Myeloid blast cells from some patients contained intracellular pools of uPAR but displayed no receptor on the cell surface, suggesting that translocation may be a mechanism regulating uPAR expression in these cells. The comparison of uPAR expression between these cell lines and peripheral blood cells and it correlation with plasminogen receptors, tPA receptors and LRP expression offers new insights regarding potential mechanisms for regulation of uPA-uPAR-mediated pericellular proteolysis.