Streptococcus equisimilis streptokinase (SK) is a bacterial protein of unknown tertiary structure and domain organization that is used extensively to treat acute myocardial infarction following coronary thrombosis. Six fragments of SK were generated by limited proteolysis with chymotrypsin and purified. NMR and CD experiments have shown that the secondary and tertiary structure present in the native molecule is preserved within all fragments, except the N-terminal fragment SK7. NMR spectra demonstrate the presence in SK of three structurally autonomous domains and a less structured C-terminal "tail." Cleavage within the N-terminal domain generates an N-terminal fragment, SK7, which remains noncovalently associated with the remainder of the molecule; in isolation, SK7 adopts an unfolded conformation. The abilities of these fragments to induce active site formation within human plasminogen upon formation of their heterodimeric complex were assayed. The lowest mass SK fragment exhibiting Plg-dependent activator activity was shown to be SK27 (mass 27,000, residues 147-380), which contains both central and C-terminal domains, although this activity was reduced approximately 6,000-fold relative to that of full-length SK. The activity of a 36,000 mass fragment, SK36 (residues 64-380), which differs from SK27 in possessing a portion of the N-terminal domain, was reduced to 0.1-1.0% of that of SK. Other fragments (masses 7,000, 11,000, 16,000, 17,000, 25,000, and 26,000), representing either single domains or single domains extended by portions of other domains, were inactive. However, SK7 (residues 1-63), at a 100-fold molar excess concentration, greatly potentiated the activities of SK27 and SK36, by up to 50- and > 130-fold, respectively. These findings demonstrate that all of SK's three domains are essential for native-like SK activity. The central and C-terminal domains mediate plasminogen-binding and active site-generating functions, whereas the N-terminal domain mediates an activity-potentiating function.