Urokinase plasminogen activator (uPA) and tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) were assayed in biopsies from the base, edge and adjacent skin of ischaemic and venous ulcers using a functional bioimmunoassay and a standard immunoassay. Two series of 14 biopsies were examined: from seven venous and seven ischaemic ulcers in the first series, eight venous and six ischaemic in the second. It was found that tPA was detected in only four samples of ulcer edge using the bioimmunoassay and in no sample by the standard immunoassay. By contrast, uPA was detected in all but one ulcer edge biopsy and at a significantly lower median concentration in the adjacent skin (16.9 units/g) than the ulcer edge (26.1 units/g) or base (32.3 units/g) (both P < 0.01). Levels of uPA were greater in the edge and base of venous compared with ischaemic ulcers. The predominant plasminogen activator in chronic leg ulcers is uPA; this activator may play an important role in wound healing.