Knowledge of the pathogenetic mechanisms responsible for the activation of the coagulation system associated with endotoxemia is important for the development of improved modalities for prevention and treatment. We analyzed the appearance in plasma of TNF, IL-6, and indices of coagulation and fibrinolytic system activation in normal chimpanzees after intravenous infusion of endotoxin. Endotoxin infusion elicited reproducible and dose-dependent elevations in serum TNF and IL-6, as well as marked increases in thrombin generation in vivo as measured by immunoassays for prothrombin activation fragment F1 + 2, thrombin-antithrombin III complexes, and fibrinopeptide A. Activation of the fibrinolytic mechanism was monitored with assays for plasminogen activator activity and plasmin-alpha 2-antiplasmin complexes. To potentially intervene in the molecular pathways elicited by endotoxin, pentoxifylline, an agent that interrupts "immediate early" gene activation by monocytes, or a potent monoclonal antibody that neutralizes tissue factor-mediated initiation of coagulation, were infused shortly before endotoxin. Pentoxifylline markedly inhibited increases in the levels of TNF and IL-6, as well as the effects on coagulation and fibrinolysis. In contrast, the monoclonal antibody to tissue factor completely abrogated the augmentation in thrombin generation, but had no effect on cytokine levels or fibrinolysis. We conclude that the endotoxin-induced activation of coagulation appears to be mediated by the tissue factor-dependent pathway, the fibrinolytic response triggered by endotoxin is not dependent on the generation of thrombin, and that the release of cytokines may be important in mediating the activation of both the coagulation and the fibrinolytic mechanisms in vivo.