Paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH) is an acquired clonal defect in bone marrow-derived cells and is clinically associated with intravascular hemolysis, hemoglobinuria, and an increased frequency of venous thrombosis. The common denominator of PNH-affected blood cells appears to be a defect in the membrane attachment of proteins normally anchored by glycosyl-phosphatidylinositol (GPI). We report here that the cellular receptor for urokinase-type plasminogen activator (u-PAR) is deficient on affected peripheral blood monocytes and granulocytes from four individuals with PNH as evidenced by chemical cross-linking analysis as well as by immunofluorescence flow cytometry using a monoclonal anti-u-PAR antibody. In contrast, on normal blood monocytes and granulocytes we find significant amounts of u-PAR, which is attached to the plasma membrane by a GPI-anchor as defined by its sensitivity towards a specific phospholipase treatment. By two-color flow cytometry it was shown that deficiency of u-PAR expression paralleled that of another GPI-anchored protein. As u-PAR is involved in the initiation of pericellular proteolysis, the reduced expression of u-PAR on PNH-affected leukocytes led to an overall reduction in the capacity for plasminogen activation by cell-surface-bound urokinase. Whereas the abnormal susceptibility of PNH-affected erythrocytes to lysis by autologous complement has been related to the low expression of three GPI-anchored complement regulatory proteins on the cell surface, we now propose that lack of u-PAR expression on the surface of peripheral blood leukocytes may be causally related to the high incidence of venous thrombosis observed in PNH patients.