It has been reported that omental fat tissue is a good source of human microvascular endothelial cells. By characterization we demonstrate that the epitheloid cells isolated from omental tissue are not endothelial cells, but mesothelial cells. They contain abundant cytokeratins 8 and 18, which are absent in endothelial cells, and vimentin. No staining with the endothelial-specific antibodies EN-4 and PAL-E is observed. A faint and diffuse staining of von Willebrand factor (vWF) is seen in mesothelial cells, whereas microvascular endothelial cells from subcutaneous fat display vWF in distinct granular structures. Human peritoneal mesothelium produces plasminogen activator-dependent fibrinolytic activity, which is essential in the resolution of fibrous exudates and may therefore be important in preventing the formation of fibrous peritoneal adhesions. This fibrinolytic activity is plasminogen activator-dependent, but has not been fully characterized. We report here that human omental tissue mesothelial cells in vitro produce large amounts of tissue-type plasminogen activator (t-PA), together with type 1 and 2 plasminogen activator inhibitor (PAI-1 and PAI-2). PAI-1 is predominantly secreted into the culture medium, whereas the major part of PAI-2 is found in the cells. No urokinase-type plasminogen activator is detected. On stimulation with the inflammatory mediator tumor necrosis factor (TNF), at least a threefold decrease in t-PA antigen is observed, together with an increase in both PAI-1 and PAI-2. TNF also induces a marked change in cell shape. Whereas TNF and bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS) have similar effects on the production of PA inhibitor by human endothelial cells, LPS has no or only a relatively small effect on the fibrinolytic properties of mesothelial cells. The decreased fibrinolytic activity induced by the cytokine TNF may impair the natural dissolution of fibrin deposits at the peritoneum in the presence of an inflammatory reaction.