The plasminogen activator (PA) produced by freshly purified human monocytes-macrophages and histiocytic, lymphoma-derived U 937 cells was analyzed by zymography after sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE), and found to migrate with an apparent Mr of 55,000, identical to that of urokinase (Uk). By immunoprecipitation with antibodies specific for the two different types of PA, the enzyme was shown to be immunologically related to urokinase, and not to tissue PA. Urokinase was secreted in the form of the inactive Mr 55,000 zymogen prourokinase , and could be converted to the active Mr 55,000 enzyme by limited proteolysis with plasmin. Conditioned media from cultures of U 937 cells and monocytes-macrophages inhibited the fibrinolytic activity of exogenously added urokinase. Using [125I]-labeled urokinase we observed the formation of an enzyme-ligand complex, which was not dissociated by boiling in SDS and migrated with an apparent Mr 40,000 daltons higher than the free enzyme; since complexed urokinase was functionally inactivated as a PA, the ligand is an inhibitor of urokinase. This inhibitor is different from fibroblast-produced protease- nexin , in that it did not interact with thrombin. These results suggest that plasminogen activation by mononuclear phagocytes can be modulated through the secretion of both (pro)enzyme and a specific inhibitor.