Routine evaluation of 12 children with Cooley's anemia revealed that each one had a prolonged partial thromboplastin time. However, prothrombin time and thrombin time were within the normal range. Specific assays demonstrated low levels of the four contact factors: factors XI, XII, prekallikrein, and high molecular weight kininogen. Further investigation revealed activity against para-nitroanilide peptide substrates in unactivated plasma from all 12 patients. Following gel filtration on Sephadex G200, the activity emerged in one peak in the void volume, indicating a molecular weight of greater the 500,000. Activity was greatest against H-D-Pro-Phe-Arg-pNA, the substrate for plasma kallikrein, and was inhibited by diisopropyl fluorophosphate and trasolyl. It was unaffected by hirudin, soy bean trypsin inhibitor, and lima bean trypsin inhibitor. It was destroyed by heating at 56 degrees C. Specific antisera against human prekallikrein and human alpha-macroglobulin did not reduce the activity. It is concluded that a high molecular weight kallikrein-like protease, is present in the plasma of these patients. It is postulated that it is released into the circulation from tissue as a result of damage due to iron overload. It is further postulated that this protease brings about in vivo activation of the contrast factors, resulting in a fall in their circulating levels.