In vivo complex formation of activated protein C with protein C inhibitor (APC-PCI) and with alpha 1-antitrypsin (APC-alpha 1AT) following infusion of 0.25 or 1.0 mg APC/kg in 1 hour into baboons was studied using immunoblotting and sandwich enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA)s. Before APC infusion, detectable plasma levels (about 30 ng/mL) of APC-alpha 1AT complex were found in the baboon plasma. At the lower APC dose, APC-PCI and APC-alpha 1AT complex levels were 1.4 +/- 0.3 (mean +/- SD) and 0.8 +/- 0.1 microgram/mL after 1 hour of infusion. At the higher APC dose, the APC-PCI level was similar to the APC-alpha 1AT level during the first 30 minutes, but after 1 hour of infusion the APC-alpha 1AT level was higher than the APC-PCI level, reaching 4.1 +/- 1.2 and 2.9 +/- 1.2 microgram/mL, respectively. After 24 hours, complex levels had returned to basal conditions. During infusion of protein C (1.0 mg/kg in 1 hour), both complexes were detected in low concentrations. Following bolus injection of APC, half-lives (t1/2) for APC and APC-PCI and APC-alpha 1AT complexes of 10, 40, and 140 minutes, respectively, were observed. After 1-hour incubation with 2.5 micrograms/mL APC, baboon plasma contained 1.0 +/- 0.2 and 0.8 +/- 0.1 microgram/mL of APC-PCI and APC-alpha 1AT, respectively. Addition of 10 micrograms/mL APC to baboon plasma yielded 2.5 and 2.4 micrograms/mL APC-PCI and APC-alpha 1AT after 1 hour, respectively. Immunoblotting analysis also showed in vivo formation of complexes of APC with an auxilliary inhibitor but not in vitro in citrated plasma. These data show that both PCI and alpha 1AT are physiologic inhibitors of APC and suggest that when PCI is depleted by a high dose of APC, alpha 1AT becomes the major inhibitor of APC.