The effect of human plasmin on human coagulation factor V was studied using isolated proteins. Incubation of factor V with plasmin resulted in a rapid increase in procoagulant activity, followed by a subsequent decline in the ability of factor V to serve as a cofactor in the prothrombinase complex. Identical results were obtained when these reactions were conducted in the presence of dansylarginine-N-(3-ethyl- 1,5-pentanediyl) amide (DAPA), indicating that the changes observed could not have occurred as a consequence of cleavage by alpha-thrombin. Analysis of the products of the reaction by sodium dodecyl sulfate- polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE) revealed a temporal correlation between the rise and fall in factor V activity and the presence of several transient intermediates. These fragments are distinct from the subunits of alpha-thrombin-activated factor V (factor Va). The activation phase of the reaction was not significantly affected by the presence of phospholipid. In contrast, the rate of degradation of active fragments of factor V and the accompanying loss of activity were markedly enhanced in the presence of phospholipid vesicles. These data suggest that the action of plasmin upon factor V results in the transient formation of proteolytic fragments which express significant procoagulant activity.