Similarity between the apolipoprotein(a) (apo(a)) moiety of lipoprotein(a) (Lp(a)) and plasminogen suggests a potentially important link between atherosclerosis and thrombosis. Lp(a) may interfere with tissue plasminogen activator (tPA)-mediated plasminogen activation in fibrinolysis, thereby generating a hypercoagulable state in vivo. A fluorescence-based system was employed to study the effect of apo(a) on plasminogen activation in the presence of native fibrin and degraded fibrin cofactors and in the absence of positive feedback reactions catalyzed by plasmin. Human Lp(a) and a physiologically relevant, 17-kringle recombinant apo(a) species exhibited strong inhibition with both cofactors. A variant lacking the protease domain also exhibited strong inhibition, indicating that the apo(a)-plasminogen binding interaction mediated by the apo(a) protease domain does not ultimately inhibit plasminogen activation. A variant in which the strong lysine-binding site in kringle IV type 10 had been abolished exhibited substantially reduced inhibition whereas another lacking the kringle V domain showed no inhibition. Amino-terminal truncation mutants of apo(a) also revealed that additional sequences within kringle IV types 1-4 are required for maximal inhibition. To investigate the inhibition mechanism, the concentrations of plasminogen, cofactor, and a 12-kringle recombinant apo(a) species were systematically varied. Kinetics for both cofactors conformed to a single, equilibrium template model in which apo(a) can interact with all three fibrinolytic components and predicts the formation of ternary (cofactor, tPA, and plasminogen) and quaternary (cofactor, tPA, plasminogen, and apo(a)) catalytic complexes. The latter complex exhibits a reduced turnover number, thereby accounting for inhibition of plasminogen activation in the presence of apo(a)/Lp(a).