Cultured human umbilical vein endothelial cells release tissue plasminogen activator (t-PA) and type 1 plasminogen activator inhibitor (PAI-1) in response to alpha thrombin stimulation. In order to study the mechanisms of thrombin stimulation, we measured changes in levels of mRNA for t-PA and PAI-1 following exposure of endothelial cells to 3 U/mL alpha thrombin. Alpha thrombin causes a significant and time- dependent increase in the mRNA levels of both t-PA and PAI-1. Catalytically inactivated diisofluorophosphate (DIP) treated thrombin and alpha thrombin pretreated with hirudin do not alter t-PA and PAI-1 mRNA levels. We conclude that the increased secretion of t-PA and PAI-1 by human umbilical vein endothelial cells in response to alpha thrombin is mediated at least partially through an increase in mRNA levels. In addition, an active thrombin catalytic site is required for these increases in mRNA to occur.