This report describes the development and use of functional immunoradiometric assays that distinguish the activity of beta-migrating endothelial-type plasminogen activator inhibitor (PAI-1) from that of placental-type plasminogen activator inhibitor (PAI-2). These assays are based upon the binding of PAI-1 and PAI-2 to immobilized single-chain tissue-type plasminogen activator (tPA) and to immobilized urokinase (UK), respectively. The extent of binding of each PAI is quantified by incubating the PAI-PA complex first with rabbit antiserum specific for the individual PAI and then with 125I-labeled goat antirabbit IgG. In control experiments, the assays were shown to be sensitive, dose-dependent over a wide range, and specific for each PAI. These assays were employed to establish the PAI profile of a variety of human cells. Neither PAI-1 nor PAI-2 could be detected in Bowes melanoma cells or in a renal adenocarcinoma cell line (ACHN), while the histiocytic lymphoma cell (U-937) produced only PAI-2. Five cell lines, including two that were previously shown to contain one or the other PAI (e.g., umbilical vein endothelial cells and a fibrosarcoma cell line, HT-1080) in fact contained both PAIs. The cells containing both PAIs were studied in more detail. In each case, SDS treatment of CM was shown to enhance PAI-1 activity (by converting the latent form of this inhibitor into its active form) and to destroy PAI-2 activity. Various compounds including interleukin 1, dexamethasone, and phorbol myristate acetate were found to selectively influence the cellular production of one PAI without concomitantly affecting the production of the other, suggesting that the synthesis of these inhibitors is not coordinately regulated.