Protein C inhibitor (PCI), also known as plasminogen activator inhibitor 3, inhibits a variety of serine proteases by forming sodium dodecyl sulfate-stable 1:1 complexes. In purified systems PCI is only a weak inhibitor of urokinase. Nevertheless, complexes between PCI and urokinase are found in appreciable amounts in native human urine. Since PCI activity is stimulated by heparin and other glycosaminoglycans, we investigated the presence of stimulating glycosaminoglycans on cells lining the urinary tract. We chose the epithelial kidney tumor cell line TCL-598 as a model and isolated metabolically labeled glycosaminoglycans. TCL-598 incorporated [35S] sulfate into high Mr components (Mr greater than 200,000 and approximately 75,000) as judged from sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and autoradiography of cell extracts; the Mr greater than 200,000 component bound specifically to PCI-Sepharose 4B and was eluted either with heparin (5 mg/ml) or with NaCl (2.0 M). Treatment of this PCI-binding material with chondroitinase ABC, but not with chondritinase AC or heparitinase, abolished binding to PCI-Sepharose, confirming the glycosaminoglycan nature of this material and suggesting the involvement of dermatan sulfate in binding. These glycosaminoglycans eluted from PCI-Sepharose stimulated urokinase inhibition by PCI in a dose-dependent way and enhanced complex formation of 125I-urokinase and PCI as did in control experiments dermatan sulfate from porcine skin and from bovine mucosa. Our results suggest that PCI activity might be regulated also in vivo by the presence or absence of stimulating glycosaminoglycans; dermatan sulfate-containing glycosaminoglycans associated with kidney cells might be responsible for stimulation of the urokinase inhibitory activity of PCI in the urinary tract; the type of glucosaminoclycans might furthermore regulate enzyme specificity of PCI.