Early signs of inflammatory demyelination include entry of fibrin(ogen) into the central nervous system (CNS), which is normally excluded by the blood-brain barrier, and up-regulation of components of the plasminogen activator system. Using mice deficient in tissue-type plasminogen activator (tPA-/-) and urokinase plasminogen activator receptor (uPAR-/-), we investigated the involvement of the PA system on the clinical and pathological features of experimental allergic encephalomyelitis, an animal model of multiple sclerosis. tPA-/- mice suffered an early and a more severe acute disease characterized by incomplete recovery when compared to wild-type controls, with significantly higher CNS levels of plasminogen activator inhibitor-1. This correlated with fibrin accumulation, which co-localized with nonphosphorylated neurofilament on thickened axons in experimental allergic encephalomyelitis tissue. In contrast, uPAR-/- mice had a delayed, less acute disease reflected in delayed infiltration of inflammatory cells. These animals developed chronic disease as a result of steadily increased inflammation, increased levels of urokinase-type plasminogen activator (uPA), and greater degree of demyelination. Thus, the plasminogen activator system can modulate both inflammatory and degenerative events in the CNS through the respective effects of tPA and uPAR on fibrinolysis and cell adhesion/migration, manipulation of which may have therapeutic implications for multiple sclerosis.