Patients with hereditary angioedema (HAE) experience episodes of bradykinin (BK)-induced swelling of skin and mucosal membranes. The most common cause is reduced plasma activity of C1 inhibitor, the main regulator of the proteases plasma kallikrein (PKa) and factor XIIa (FXIIa). Recently, patients with HAE were described with a Lys311 to glutamic acid substitution in plasminogen (Plg), the zymogen of the protease plasmin (Plm). Adding tissue plasminogen activator to plasma containing Plg-Glu311 vs plasma containing wild-type Plg (Plg-Lys311) results in greater BK generation. Similar results were obtained in plasma lacking prekallikrein or FXII (the zymogens of PKa and FXIIa) and in normal plasma treated with a PKa inhibitor, indicating Plg-Glu311 induces BK generation independently of PKa and FXIIa. Plm-Glu311 cleaves high and low molecular weight kininogens (HK and LK, respectively), releasing BK more efficiently than Plm-Lys311. Based on the plasma concentrations of HK and LK, the latter may be the source of most of the BK generated by Plm-Glu311. The lysine analog ε-aminocaproic acid blocks Plm-catalyzed BK generation. The Glu311 substitution introduces a lysine-binding site into the Plg kringle 3 domain, perhaps altering binding to kininogens. Plg residue 311 is glutamic acid in most mammals. Glu311 in patients with HAE, therefore, represents reversion to the ancestral condition. Substantial BK generation occurs during Plm-Glu311 cleavage of human HK, but not mouse HK. Furthermore, mouse Plm, which has Glu311, did not liberate BK from human kininogens more rapidly than human Plg-Lys311. This indicates Glu311 is pathogenic in the context of human Plm when human kininogens are the substrates.