The shutter region of serpins consists of a number of highly conserved residues that are critical for both stability and function. Several variants of antithrombin with substitutions in this region are unstable and predispose the carrier to thrombosis. Although most mutations in the shutter region investigated to date are deleterious with respect to serpin stability and function, the substitution of Phe51 by Leu in alpha(1)-antitrypsin results in enhanced stability. Here, we have investigated the effects of introducing an analogous mutation into antithrombin (Phe 77 to Leu). The mutation did not affect the kinetics of interaction with proteases. Strikingly, however, the thermostability of the protein was markedly decreased, with the serpin displaying a 13 degrees C decrease in melting temperature as compared to wild-type recombinant antithrombin. Further studies revealed that in contrast to wild-type antithrombin, the mutant adopted the latent (inactive) conformation upon mild heating. Previous studies on shutter region mutations that destabilize antithrombin revealed that such variants possess enhanced affinity for both heparin pentasaccharide and full-length heparin. The N135A/F77L mutant had unchanged affinity for heparin pentasaccharide, but the affinity for full-length heparin was increased. We suggest that the Phe77Leu mutation causes conformational changes around the top of the D-helix in antithrombin, in particular, to the arginine 132 and 133 residues that may mediate additional antithrombin/heparin interactions. This paper also demonstrates that there are major differences between the shutter regions of antithrombin and alpha(1)-antitrypsin since a stabilizing mutation in antitrypsin has the converse effect in antithrombin.