A panel of monoclonal antibodies against human prekallikrein was raised in mice and characterized with respect to the major antigenic epitopes. Of 18 antibodies, nine were directed against the light chain portion performing the proteolytic function of activated kallikrein, and nine recognized the heavy chain mediating the binding of prekallikrein to high molecular weight (H-)kininogen. Among the anti-heavy chain antibodies, one (PK6) interfered with the procoagulant activity of prekallikrein, and prolonged in a concentration-dependent manner the activated partial thromboplastin time of reconstituted prekallikrein-deficient plasma (Fletcher type). Antibody PK6 was subtyped IgG1,k and had an apparent Kass of 6.8 +/- 0.44.10(8) M-1 for prekallikrein. Functional analyses revealed that PK6 does not interfere with prekallikrein activation by activated Hageman factor (beta-F XIIa), and has no effect on the kininogenase function of activated kallikrein. Monoclonal antibody PK6 but none of the other anti-heavy chain antibodies completely prevented complex formation of prekallikrein with H-kininogen, and readily dissociated preformed complexes of prekallikrein and H-kininogen. Likewise, Fab' and F(ab')2 fragments of PK6 blocked H-kininogen binding to prekallikrein. A synthetic peptide of 31 amino acid residues encompassing the entire prekallikrein binding region of H-kininogen effectively competed with PK6 for prekallikrein binding indicating that the target epitope of PK6 is juxtaposed to, if not incorporated in the H-kininogen-binding site of prekallikrein. Extensive cross-reactivity of PK6 with another H-kininogen-binding protein of human plasma, i.e. factor XI, suggested that the structure of the target epitope of PK6 is well conserved among prekallikrein and factor XI, as would be expected for the kininogen-binding site shared by the two proteins. It is anticipated that monoclonal antibody PK6 will be an important tool for the precise mapping of the hitherto unknown kininogen-binding site of prekallikrein.