We studied the activation of factor X by the intrinsic pathway of blood coagulation using a new assay of factor X activation. When factor X tritiated in its sialic acid residues is activated, activation can be measured by the release of tritiated activation peptide, and the initial rate of activation can be determined under varying conditions. In the presence of phospholipid and calcium ions, factor IXa activated factor X slowly without factor VIII, and this activation was blocked by a specific factor IX inhibitor. These data provide strong evidence that factor IXa is the enzyme responsible for factor X activation by the intrinsic pathway. The role of factor VIII was also investigated. Factor VIII could be reproducibly thrombin activated and then stabilized by the addition of 2 mM benzamidine hydrochloride; this suggests that inactivation is due to proteolysis. Neither unactivated nor thrombin-activated factor VIII produced factor X activation without factor IXa. With a constant level of factor IXa, factor X activation was directly proportional to the level of activated factor VIII. With a constant level of activated factor VIII, factor X activation was proportional to the factor IXa concentration. This observation was exploited to develop a specific, sensitive assay for factor IXa.