Binding of the 5-(iodoacetamido)fluorescein (IAF)-labeled high molecular weight (HMW) kininogen light chain to prekallikrein and D-Phe-Phe-Arg-CH2Cl-inactivated kallikrein was monitored by a 0.040 +/- 0.002 increase in fluorescence anisotropy. Indistinguishable average dissociation constants and stoichiometries of 14 +/- 3 nM and 1.1 +/- 0.1 mol of prekallikrein/mol of IAF-light chain and 17 +/- 3 nM and 0.9 +/- 0.1 mol of kallikrein/mol of IAF-light chain were determined for these interactions at pH 7.4, mu 0.14 and 22 degrees C. Prekallikrein which had been reduced and alkylated in 6 M guanidine HCl lost the ability to increase the fluorescence anisotropy of the IAF-kininogen light chain, suggesting that the native tertiary structure was required for tight binding. The kallikrein heavy and light chains were separated on the basis of the affinity of the heavy chain for HMW-kininogen-Sepharose, after mild reduction and alkylation of kallikrein under nondenaturing conditions. Under these conditions, alkylation with iodo [14C]acetamide demonstrated that only limited chemical modification had occurred. Binding of the IAF-kininogen light chain to the isolated alkylated kallikrein heavy chain, when compared to prekallikrein and kallikrein, was characterized by an indistinguishable increase in fluorescence anisotropy, average dissociation constant of 14 +/- 3 nM, and stoichiometry of 1.2 +/- 0.1 mol of kallikrein heavy chain/mol of IAF-light chain. In contrast, no binding of the D-Phe-Phe-Arg-CH2Cl-inactivated kallikrein light chain was detected at concentrations up to 500 nM. Furthermore, 300 nM kallikrein light chain did not affect IAF-kininogen light chain binding to prekallikrein, kallikrein, or the kallikrein heavy chain. The binding of monomeric single chain HMW-kininogen to prekallikrein, kallikrein, and the kallikrein heavy and light chains was studied using the IAF-kininogen light chain as a probe. Analysis of the competitive binding of HMW-kininogen gave average dissociation constants and stoichiometries of 12 +/- 2 nM and 1.2 +/- 0.1 mol of prekallikrein/mol of HMW-kininogen, 15 +/- 2 nM and 1.3 +/- 0.1 mol of kallikrein/mol of HMW-kininogen, 14 +/- 3 nM and 1.4 +/- 0.2 mol of kallikrein heavy chain/mol of HMW-kininogen, and no detectable effect of 300 nM kallikrein light chain on these interactions. We conclude that a specific, nonenzymatic interaction between sites located exclusively on the light chain of HMW-kininogen and the heavy chain of kallikrein or prekallikrein is responsible for the formation of 1:1 noncovalent complexes between these proteins.