Vascular diseases, such as atherosclerosis, thromboembolic disorders and stroke, in addition to surgical procedures such as restenosis, all share the plasminogen activator system as a central component in the pathogenesis of vascular injury. Since the development of plasminogen deficient mice our knowledge of the effects of this proteolytic system in cardiovascular disease has vastly increased. The plasminogen activator system plays a key role in vascular homeostasis and constitutes a critical response mechanism to cardiovascular injury. The central components of the PA system are the proteolytic activators, urokinase-plasminogen activator (u-PA) and tissue-type plasminogen activator (t-PA), plasminogen (plg) and its degradation product, plasmin, together with the major inhibitors of this system, plasminogen activator inhibitor- 1 and -2 (PAI-1, PAI-2). An extensive network of additional proteases, inhibitors, receptors and modulators directly associate and are influenced by the PA system, the largest group being the Matrix Metalloproteinases (MMPs) and their respective inhibitors the Tissue inhibitors of MMPs (TIMPS).