BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES Although leukocytes and platelets adhere to fibrin with alacrity in vitro, these cells do not readily accumulate on the surfaces of fibrin clots in vivo. The difference in the capacity of blood cell integrins to adhere to fibrin in vivo and in vitro is striking and implies the existence of a physiologic antiadhesive mechanism. The surfaces of fibrin clots in the circulation are continually exposed to plasma proteins, several of which can bind fibrin and influence cell adhesion. Recently, we have demonstrated that adsorption of soluble fibrinogen on the surface of a fibrin clot results in its deposition as a soft multilayer matrix, which prevents attachment of blood cells. In the present study, we demonstrate that another plasma protein, plasminogen, which is known to accumulate in the superficial layer of fibrin, exerts an antiadhesive effect. RESULTS After being coated with plasminogen, the surfaces of fibrin clots became essentially non-adhesive for U937 monocytic cells, blood monocytes, and platelets. The data revealed that activation of fibrin-bound plasminogen by the plasminogen-activating system assembled on adherent cells resulted in the generation of plasmin, which decomposed the superficial fibrin layer, resulting in cell detachment under flow. The surfaces generated after the initial cell adhesion remained non-adhesive for subsequent attachment of leukocytes and platelets. CONCLUSION We propose that the limited degradation of fibrin by plasmin generated by adherent cells loosens the fibers on the clot surface, producing a mechanically unstable substrate that is unable to support firm integrin-mediated cell adhesion.