Although elevated plasma plasminogen activator inhibitor 1 (PAI-1) is associated with obesity, very little is known about its tissue or cellular origin, or about the events that lead to increased PAI-1 levels under obese conditions. Since TNF-alpha is increased in rodents both during obesity and in response to endotoxin treatment, we examined the effects of these agents on PAI-1 gene expression in the adipose tissue of CB6 mice. In untreated mice, PAI-1 mRNA was detected in both mature adipocytes and in stromal vascular cells. Both TNF-alpha and endotoxin significantly increased PAI-1 mRNA in the adipose tissue, peaking at 3-8 h. In situ hybridization analysis of adipose tissue from untreated mice revealed a weak signal for PAI-1 mRNA only in the smooth muscle cells within the vascular wall. In contrast, after endotoxin or TNF-alpha treatment, PAI-1 mRNA also was detected in adipocytes and in adventitial cells of vessels. Endotoxin also induced PAI-1 in endothelial cells, while TNF-alpha additionally induced it in smooth muscle cells. Mature 3T3-L1 adipocytes in culture also expressed PAI-1 mRNA, and its rate of synthesis was also upregulated by TNF-alpha. These studies suggest that the adipose tissue itself may be an important contributor to the elevated PAI-1 levels observed in the plasma under obese conditions.