Type 1 plasminogen activator inhibitor (PAI-1) may be markedly increased in the plasma of patients with endotoxemia and/or renal disease. To investigate renal PAI-1 production during acute endotoxemia, a murine model system was used. Mice were injected with either saline alone or saline containing 50 micrograms endotoxin, and sacrificed 3 hours later and their tissues analyzed for PAI-1 messenger RNA (mRNA) and antigen. Northern blot analysis confirmed that the level of renal PAI-1 mRNA was greatly increased in the endotoxemic mice relative to the saline controls. In situ hybridization was then performed to determine the cellular localization of PAI-1 mRNA within the renal tissues. In the control kidneys, low levels of PAI-1 mRNA were detected in the renal papilla and in the muscular walls of renal arteries. However, in the endotoxemic mice, an intense hybridization signal for PAI-1 mRNA was observed in glomerular and peritubular cells. These cells also stained positively for von Willebrand factor antigen, an endothelial cell-specific marker. The PAI-1 mRNA hybridization signal could further be observed in peritubular endothelial cells in the medulla and in endothelial cells of veins and arteries throughout the kidney. Immunochemical analysis revealed that PAI-1 antigen co-localized to the cytoplasm of cells expressing PAI-1 mRNA. This study provides the first direct evidence that PAI-1 is induced in endothelial cells of the kidney during endotoxemia in vivo and suggests a role for PAI-1 in the pathogenesis of renal disease.