Coagulation factor XI was purified from human plasma using ion-exchange chromatography and affinity chromatography on high molecular weight kininogen-Sepharose. A monospecific precipitating antiserum was prepared and used to study factor XI antigen. Factor XI did not migrate during electrophoresis at pH 8.3. High molecular weight kininogen (HMWK), an alpha globulin, reversibly associates with factor XI. Complex formation between HMWK and factor XI was observed under conditions of crossed-immunoelectrophoresis. Using Laurell rocket immunoelectrophoresis, it was shown that the isolated alkylated light chain of kinin-free HMWK formed a complex with factor XI. In contrast to previous studies of prekallikrein, titrations of factor XI with increasing amounts of HMWK did not give a simple titration curve, suggesting that factor XI dissociates from the complex during electrophoresis. Prekallikrein and factor XI were shown to compete for the same HMWK molecules under the conditions of immunoelectrophoresis, and prekallikrein appeared to have a higher affinity for binding to HMWK than factor XI. Quantitative determinations of factor XI antigen in plasma by rocket immunoelectrophoresis were made. The average amount of factor XI measured in plasma samples from 20 normal individuals was 4.5 micrograms/ml (range 3-6). No factor XI antigen was detected in plasma from a patient deficient in factor XI. Normal factor XI antigen levels were detected in 3 different HMWK-deficient plasmas only if the plasmas were reconstituted with purified HMWK (2 U/ml). Addition of HMWK to normal plasma resulted in an increase of the factor XI antigen rocket. At HMWK levels of 2 U/ml, no further increase of the factor XI antigen rocket was observed. Therefore, accurate measurement of factor XI antigen by rocket immunoelectrophoresis is possible only if an excess of HMWK is present.