The transient detection of fibrinogen on surfaces has been described (Vroman effect) and high-mol-wt kininogen (HK) has been shown to play a role in this reaction. In this study, we attempted to identify the form of HK responsible for preventing detection of the fibrinogen initially adsorbed from plasma to various artificial surfaces and to determine if other plasma components were involved. We compared 125I-fibrinogen adsorption in the presence of normal plasma to plasma deficient in specific proteins. On all surfaces tested, we found that fibrinogen was displaced from the surface. The extent of displacement was greatly reduced, however, but not eliminated in HK-deficient plasma. Factor XII- deficient plasma also showed reduced fibrinogen displacement. These data indicate that HK can actually displace fibrinogen; however, factor XII, or a factor XII-mediated reaction also appears to be necessary for this displacement to occur. Furthermore, when normal plasma was first subjected to extensive contact activation by dextran sulfate, during which the HK was extensively degraded to components smaller than the light chain (as assessed by Western blotting), we observed greatly reduced displacement of fibrinogen. Extensive contact activation of Factor XI-deficient plasma failed to show low-mol-wt derivatives, however, and displacement of fibrinogen was similar to normal plasma that had not undergone extensive activation. These data indicate that HKa (active cofactor produced during contact activation by factor XIIa or kallikrein) is primarily responsible for displacing fibrinogen, and that HKi (inactive cofactor generated by factor XIa) cannot displace fibrinogen. The fibrinogen from all plasma samples looked similar by Western blot analysis, suggesting that fibrinogenolysis was not a component of the Vroman effect. In addition, experiments performed with plasma prechromatographed on lysine agarose showed that a lysine- agarose adsorbable protein may be minimally involved in fibrinogen desorption and a synergism may exist between HK and that protein.