Correlations between glomerular expression of tissue factor (TF) activity and antigen and cellular localization of TF mRNA was studied in crescentic glomerulonephritis (GN) in rabbits. Glomerular TF activity increased 8.7-fold 24 hours after initiation of GN (234 +/- 49 mU/10(3) glomeruli; normal, 27 +/- 10 mU/10(3) glomeruli; P = 0.003) in association with a 2.1-fold increase in TF antigen (154 +/- 34 ng/10(3) glomeruli; normal, 72 +/- 10 ng/10(3) glomeruli; P = 0.055), early macrophage infiltration, and no significant increase in TF mRNA. At the peak glomerular macrophage infiltration (day 4), TF activity remained augmented (230 +/- 63 mU/10(3) glomeruli) and TF mRNA, colocalized within macrophages, was significantly increased compared with normal (267 +/- 42%; P = 0.001). TF antigen was not increased in glomeruli (114 +/- 17 ng/10(3) glomeruli), although significant urinary excretion of TF antigen was detectable (478 +/- 121 ng/24 hours; normal, < 1 ng/24 hours; P = 0.032). At this time, the M(r) of glomerular TF (49 to 61 kd) was increased compared with TF in normal glomeruli (49 to 58 kd) as a result of increased glycosylation. At day 7, TF activity and antigen within glomeruli had decreased, although urinary excretion of TF antigen and glomerular TF mRNA remained elevated. These studies suggest that early up-regulation of TF activity is largely a result of functional up-regulation of constitutive TF in intrinsic glomerular cells. In more advanced disease, infiltrating macrophages are the major site of TF synthesis. The increased M(r) of glomerular TF, as a result of synthesis of more highly glycosylated protein by macrophages and the shedding of TF into the urine, suggests that substantial turnover of glomerular TF occurs at this stage.