Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic and progressive inflammatory disease characterized in its early stages by synovial hyperplasia and inflammatory cell infiltration and later by irreversible joint tissue destruction. The plasminogen activation system (PAS) is associated with a wide range of physiological and pathophysiological states involving fibrinolysis, inflammation and tissue remodeling. Various components of the PAS are implicated in the pathophysiology of RA. Urokinase plasminogen activator (uPA) in particular is a pro-inflammatory mediator that appears to play an important role in the bone and cartilage destruction associated with RA. Clinical studies have shown that uPA and its receptor uPAR are overexpressed in synovia of patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Further, genetic knockdown and antibody-mediated neutralization of uPA have been shown to be protective against induction or progression of arthritis in animal models. The pro-arthritic role of uPA is differentiated from its haemodynamic counterpart, tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), which appears to play a protective role in RA animal models. This review summarises available evidence supporting the PAS as a critical determinant of RA pathogenesis and highlights opportunities for the development of novel uPAS-targeting therapeutics.