A patient developed bleeding due to an acute acquired specific prothrombin deficiency. Unlike previously described patients, this patient had no evidence of an associated lupus anticoagulant. Prothrombin activity and antigen were decreased concordantly and the patient's plasma did not neutralize the activity of added prothrombin or interfere with its measurement by electroimmunoassay. Nevertheless, immunoelectrophoresis and experiments using 125I-prothrombin revealed a prothrombin-binding antibody. The residual prothrombin in the patient's plasma was in the form of a prothrombin-antibody complex. Administration of adrenal corticosteroids was associated with a rise in prothrombin activity and cessation of bleeding, but circulating prothrombin was still bound to the antibody. This suggests that non- neutralizing antibodies to prothrombin cause plasma prothrombin deficiency because of a rapid clearance of prothrombin-antibody complexes, which is slowed by adrenal corticosteroids. The antibody had a relatively low affinity for prothrombin (Kd 5 to 8 X 10(-7)) and was transient. It is possible, therefore, that the antibody arose not to prothrombin itself, but to an antigen sharing an epitope with prothrombin.