Previous studies have shown that a glycoprotein of Mr 47,000 (designated Gp47) is a major biosynthetic product of retinal endothelial cells in vitro (Canfield, Schor, West, Schor & Grant (1987) Biochem. J. 246, 121-129). We now present data indicating that (a) an identical protein is secreted by bovine retinal pericytes, (b) this protein is plasminogen activator inhibitor-type I (PAI-1), as revealed by immunoprecipitation with specific antibodies and reverse fibrin zymography, and (c) retinal endothelial cells and pericytes synthesize different species of matrix macromolecules, that is: type IV collagen is the major collagen secreted by endothelial cells, whereas pericytes produce predominantly type I collagen; fibronectin and thrombospondin are synthesized by both cell types. Our studies also indicate that PAI-1 is produced, albeit at considerably lower levels, by large vessel vascular cells (aortic endothelial and smooth muscle cells) and human skin fibroblasts. PAI-1 produced by human skin fibroblasts appears to be a distinct molecular species compared to its bovine counterpart as assessed by its slower mobility on SDS/polyacrylamide-gel electrophoresis. The potential significance of elevated PAI-1 production by retinal endothelial cells and pericytes, as well as their distinctive patterns of matrix biosynthesis, is discussed in terms of the involvement of these cells in the maintenance and remodelling of microvessel basement membrane.