Fibrinogen is a large, complex, fibrous glycoprotein with three pairs of polypeptide chains linked together by 29 disulfide bonds. It is 45 nm in length, with globular domains at each end and in the middle connected by alpha-helical coiled-coil rods. Both strongly and weakly bound calcium ions are important for maintenance of fibrinogen's structure and functions. The fibrinopeptides, which are in the central region, are cleaved by thrombin to convert soluble fibrinogen to insoluble fibrin polymer, via intermolecular interactions of the "knobs" exposed by fibrinopeptide removal with "holes" always exposed at the ends of the molecules. Fibrin monomers polymerize via these specific and tightly controlled binding interactions to make half-staggered oligomers that lengthen into protofibrils. The protofibrils aggregate laterally to make fibers, which then branch to yield a three-dimensional network-the fibrin clot-essential for hemostasis. X-ray crystallographic structures of portions of fibrinogen have provided some details on how these interactions occur. Finally, the transglutaminase, Factor XIIIa, covalently binds specific glutamine residues in one fibrin molecule to lysine residues in another via isopeptide bonds, stabilizing the clot against mechanical, chemical, and proteolytic insults. The gene regulation of fibrinogen synthesis and its assembly into multichain complexes proceed via a series of well-defined steps. Alternate splicing of two of the chains yields common variant molecular isoforms. The mechanical properties of clots, which can be quite variable, are essential to fibrin's functions in hemostasis and wound healing. The fibrinolytic system, with the zymogen plasminogen binding to fibrin together with tissue-type plasminogen activator to promote activation to the active enzyme plasmin, results in digestion of fibrin at specific lysine residues. Fibrin(ogen) also specifically binds a variety of other proteins, including fibronectin, albumin, thrombospondin, von Willebrand factor, fibulin, fibroblast growth factor-2, vascular endothelial growth factor, and interleukin-1. Studies of naturally occurring dysfibrinogenemias and variant molecules have increased our understanding of fibrinogen's functions. Fibrinogen binds to activated alphaIIbbeta3 integrin on the platelet surface, forming bridges responsible for platelet aggregation in hemostasis, and also has important adhesive and inflammatory functions through specific interactions with other cells. Fibrinogen-like domains originated early in evolution, and it is likely that their specific and tightly controlled intermolecular interactions are involved in other aspects of cellular function and developmental biology.