Granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) raised the plasminogen activator (PA) activity of cultured human monocytes. This activity was characterized to be urokinase-PA (u-PA) by incubation with specific IgG and by sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis zymography. Increased u-PA activity reflected GM-CSF- induction of u-PA mRNA levels. The stimulatory properties of GM-CSF for monocyte PA activity differed from those of interleukin-4, which induced monocyte tissue-type PA (t-PA) activity, and of interferon- gamma (IFN-gamma), which alone was not stimulatory but augmented lipopolysaccharide-induced t-PA activity. GM-CSF alone did not stimulate detectable monocyte t-PA activity but combined with IFN-gamma to promote this activity. Plasmin formation arising from GM-CSF-induced u-PA in monocytes may contribute to the matrix turnover involved in, eg, cell migration and inflammation, and may explain some of the pathology seen in GM-CSF transgenic mice.