During isolation and purification involving fractionation by acetone, ethanol and affinity chromatography on trypsin-Sepharose and isoelectrofocusing hirudin from whole leeches behaves as the inhibitor isolated from leech heads and "pseudohirudin" from leech bodies. The antithrombin activity of hirudin fractions obtained by isoelectrofocusing is about three times less than that of the corresponding hirudin fractions from the heads. The "pseudohirudin" fractions are practically devoid of the antithrombin activity. In hirudin prepared from whole leeches isoleucine and valine were identified as N-terminal amino acids. The antithrombin activity and N-terminal amino acids suggest that hirudin from whole leeches contains admixtures of inactive "pseudohirudin". Hirudin from leech heads purified by complexing with thrombin possesses the activity of 15600 ATNIH units per pg of protein and has isoleucine as an N-terminal amino acid.