Tissue type plasminogen activator (t-PA) is an effective thrombolytic agent in experimental animals. The duration of the thrombolytic effect of infused t-PA is unknown. We compared the duration of the thrombolytic effect of t-PA with streptokinase by measuring the lysis of 125I-fibrin-labeled thrombi in rabbit jugular veins at different times after a bolus injection of the fibrinolytic agents. The pharmacodynamics of both thrombolytic agents were determined in rabbits using a sensitive ex vivo fibrinolytic assay. Streptokinase and t-PA were given as a bolus dose of 15,000 U/kg. There was no detectable circulating fibrinolytic activity 30 minutes after the bolus dose of t- PA and 120 minutes after the bolus dose of streptokinase. The t-PA injection produced 34% thrombolysis at 30 minutes, 90% thrombolysis at 120 minutes, and 96% thrombolysis at 240 minutes. The streptokinase injection produced 17% thrombolysis at 30 minutes, 34% at 120 minutes, and 34% at 240 minutes. These observations indicate that the thrombolytic effect of t-PA is sustained beyond its time of clearance from the circulation whereas the thrombolytic effect of streptokinase closely parallels its activity in the circulation.