Previous studies have shown that tissue-type plasminogen activator (t-PA) in blood is cleared by the liver partially through a mannose-specific uptake system. The present study was undertaken to investigate, in a purified system, whether t-PA is recognized by the mannose receptor which is expressed on macrophages and liver sinusoidal cells. The mannose receptor was isolated and purified from bovine alveolar macrophages and migrated as a single protein band at M(r) 175,000 on polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis in the presence of sodium dodecyl sulfate. Ligand blotting revealed that this protein specifically bound t-PA. The t-PA-receptor interaction was further characterized in a binding assay, which showed saturable binding with an apparent dissociation constant of 1 nM. t-PA binding required calcium ions and was negligible in the presence of EDTA or at acid pH. Mannose-albumin was an effective inhibitor, whereas galactose-albumin did not have a significant effect. From a series of monosaccharides tested, D-mannose and L-fucose were the most potent inhibitors, N-acetyl-D-glucosamine was a moderate inhibitor, whereas D-galactose and N-acetyl-D-galactosamine were ineffective. t-PA, deglycosylated by endoglycosidase H, did not interact with the receptor. It is concluded that the mannose receptor specifically binds t-PA, probably through its high mannose-type oligosaccharide.