A new, predominantly single chain preparation of recombinant tissue-type plasminogen activator was evaluated to determine coronary thrombolytic efficacy in 100 patients with acute myocardial infarction. At 3.6 +/- 1.2 hours (mean +/- SD) from symptom onset, patients received either intravenous tissue plasminogen activator (1.25 mg/kg body weight over 3 hours) or placebo on a 3:1 randomized, double-blind basis. Coronary angiography, performed 68 +/- 13 minutes after initiation of the study drug infusion, demonstrated patency of the infarct-related artery in 40 (57%) of 70 patients in the tissue plasminogen activator group compared with 3 (13%) of 23 patients in the placebo group (p less than 0.001). Patients in the placebo group were then eligible to receive intracoronary streptokinase. At 90 minutes the patency was observed in 49 (69%) of 71 tissue plasminogen activator patients compared with 5 (24%) of 21 placebo patients (p less than 0.001). At 120 minutes patency was observed in 59 (79%) of 75 patients of the tissue plasminogen activator group and in 10 (40%) of 25 in the intracoronary streptokinase/placebo group. A nadir value of less than 100 mg/dl fibrinogen occurred in 8 (11%) of 73 patients receiving tissue plasminogen activator versus 8 (40%) of 20 patients treated with intracoronary streptokinase (p = 0.002). Moderate or severe bleeding episodes occurred in 39% of patients treated with tissue plasminogen activator compared with 32% of patients who received placebo/intracoronary streptokinase (p = NS). Thus, this tissue plasminogen activator preparation achieves a high rate of recanalization and, at the doses employed, exhibits increased fibrinogen sparing compared with intracoronary streptokinase.