The regulation of urokinase receptor (u-PAR) gene expression during endotoxemia was studied in vivo with a murine model system. Northern blot analysis demonstrated relatively high levels of u-PAR mRNA in mouse placenta, with intermediate levels in lung and spleen and very low levels in heart and kidney. No u-PAR mRNA could be detected in liver, gut, thymus, brain, or skeletal muscle. Intraperitoneal injection of endotoxin (lipopolysaccharide) increased the steady-state levels of u-PAR mRNA in most tissues examined. The greatest induction (sevenfold) was observed in the lung at 1 hour after injection. The cellular localization of u-PAR mRNA was assessed by in situ hybridization. In control mice, u-PAR mRNA was detected primarily in alveolar macrophages of the lung and lymphocytes of the spleen and thymus, although a specific signal was also present in other cell types. In general, endothelial cells lacked detectable u-PAR mRNA. The induction of u-PAR mRNA by lipopolysaccharide was apparent within 30 minutes and was localized to tissue macrophages, lymphocytes, and endothelial cells lining arteries and veins. At later times (1 to 3 hours), specialized epithelial cells present in gastrointestinal tract, bile ducts, and uterus were also positive for u-PAR mRNA. Induction of u-PAR in vivo by lipopolysaccharide may facilitate the extravasation and migration of leukocytes during inflammation.