Elevated plasma concentrations of lipoprotein(a) are a risk factor for the development of a variety of atherosclerotic disorders. Despite intensive study, the mechanisms by which lipoprotein(a) promotes these disorders remain to be unequivocally defined. It has been demonstrated that lipoprotein(a), through its unique constituent apolipoprotein(a) (apo(a)), stimulates vascular smooth muscle cell (SMC) migration and proliferation. These effects arise from the ability of apo(a) to inhibit the formation of active transforming growth factor beta (TGF-beta) from its latent precursor, which in turn is caused by the ability of apo(a) to decrease the formation of plasmin from its precursor plasminogen. We utilized a battery of recombinant apo(a) variants that represent systematic deletions of the various domains in the molecule to further probe the mechanism underlying the effect of apo(a) on SMC responses. All recombinant apo(a) variants that contained kringle IV type 9 were able to stimulate SMC proliferation and migration and to decrease the formation of active TGF-beta; conversely all recombinant apo(a) variants lacking kringle IV type 9 had no effect on these parameters. The kringle IV type 9-dependent effects of apo(a) on SMC proliferation required the presence of plasminogen, suggesting for the first time that this kringle mediates the ability of apo(a) to inhibit pericellular plasmin formation.