The secondary structure of human fibrinogen and its plasmin-fragments have been studied by FTIR spectroscopy. The quantitative results for fibrinogen are in good agreement with previous studies using circular dichroism spectroscopy. After treatment of fibrinogen with plasmin in buffer containing Ca2+, two major fragments are produced: fragment E (Mw 45,000) and fragment D (Mw 100,000). Fragment E is shown to contain 50% alpha-helical values, attributed to its coiled-coil portions, and minor beta-strands and turn structures. Its deuteration gives evidence of the presence of solvent-exposed alpha-helical structures. On the other hand, fragment D contains a distribution of secondary structure values of 35% alpha-helix, 29% beta-sheet segments and 17% turn structures. Fragment D itself has two domains: a portion of the original coiled-coil and also a thermally labile globular domain. The coiled-coil portion (Mw 27,000) was isolated and showed a high alpha-helical content (around 70%). The globular domain is estimated to be rich in beta-sheet structures. The spectra of fibrin clots formed in Ca(2+)-containing buffer have a lower amide I/amide II ratio than fibrinogen spectra, which is interpreted as being due to aggregation.