We present functional and binding data relevant to the reported roles for prothrombin and beta 2-glycoprotein I (beta 2GPI) in the expression of lupus anticoagulant activity. In a purified system containing human prothrombin, Xa, Va, and a rate-limiting concentration of phosphatidylserine (PS)/phosphatidylcholine (PC) vesicles, the preliminary incubation of vesicles with protein A separated IgG preparations from 10 lupus anticoagulant plasmas, calcium, and prothrombin enhanced the inhibitory effect of all IgG preparations upon thrombin generation. Experiments in a purified factor X activation system provided supporting data that a similar preliminary incubation with prothrombin enhanced the inhibitory effect of many of the IgG preparations upon factor X activation. However, we could not obtain unequivocal evidence that prothrombin was an obligatory cofactor for lupus anticoagulant IgG to inhibit procoagulant phospholipid function, because lupus anticoagulant IgG separated by protein A chromatography contained traces of prothrombin. The binding of many IgG preparations to immobilized PS was enhanced by prothrombin when calcium ions were present. beta 2GPI enhanced binding of many of the IgG preparations to immobilized PS both in the presence and absence of calcium, yet beta 2GPI failed to enhance the ability of the IgG preparations to inhibit phospholipid function in purified prothrombin and factor X assays. Moreover, the IgG preparations prolonged the dilute Russell's viper venom time (dRVVT) of beta 2GPI-depleted normal plasma. Nine of 10 IgG preparations bound to prothrombin on Western blots in the absence of calcium and phospholipid, whereas no preparation bound to beta 2GPI. Passage of five citrated lupus anticoagulant plasmas through a prothrombin affinity column in the absence of added calcium and phospholipid removed most of the activity prolonging the dRVVT of normal plasma, and IgG in the pass-through plasma no longer bound to PS in the presence of prothrombin and calcium ions. IgG in prothrombin column eluates had strikingly enhanced specific lupus anticoagulant activity and also specific PS binding activity in the presence of prothrombin and calcium ions. Thus, lupus anticoagulant plasmas were shown to contain IgG binding to prothrombin, in the absence of calcium ions and phospholipid, which could also, in the presence of calcium ions and prothrombin, bind to PS and express lupus anticoagulant activity.