The validity of markers in plasma of in vitro thrombolysis was investigated in 12 patients with extensive fibrinogen breakdown (greater than 80%, group 1) and in 12 patients with minimal breakdown (less than 20%, group 2). The patients were treated with 100 mg of recombinant tissue-type plasminogen activator (rt-PA) in the “Thrombolysis in Myocardial Infarction II” (TIMI II) trial. Cross- linked fibrin degradation product levels were measured with two variant enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs), both using a fibrin fragment D-dimer specific capture antibody. In one instance, a tag antibody was used that cross-reacts with fibrinogen (pan-specific tag ELISA); in the other, the tag antibody was specific for fibrin fragment D (fibrin-specific tag ELISA). Apparent concentrations of cross-linked fibrin degradation products at baseline were within normal limits with both assays in most patients. At 8 hours after rt-PA infusion, the measured cross-linked fibrin degradation products were increased about twofold to fourfold in group 2 with both assays. However, in group 1, levels were significantly higher with the pan-specific tag ELISA (5.8 +/- 4.2 micrograms/mL) compared with the fibrin-specific tag ELISA (1.5 +/- 1.3 micrograms/mL). This observation was most likely a result of detection of fibrinogen degradation products in the pan-specific ELISA. Apparent levels of fibrinopeptide B beta 1–42, a marker of fragment X formation, increased during thrombolysis from 4.2 +/- 2.8 pmol/mL to 2,000 +/- 230 pmol/mL in group 1 and from 4.1 +/- 2.1 pmol/mL to 300 +/- 43 pmol/mL in group 2, and were correlated significantly with the extent of fibrinogen breakdown (r = -0.8). Fibrinopeptide beta 15–42 levels increased from 4.3 +/- 3 pmol/mL to 70 +/- 19 pmol/mL in group 1, but did not increase in group 2. The apparent increase in group 1 could be explained by cross-reactivity of fibrinopeptide B beta 1–42 in the fibrinopeptide beta 15–42 assay. We conclude that cross-linked fibrin degradation product levels as measured with a pan-specific tag ELISA and fibrinopeptide beta 15–42 levels as measured with certain monoclonal antibody-based ELISA are influenced by the extent of fibrinogen degradation. Fibrinopeptide B beta 1–42 is a marker specific for fibrinogen breakdown. Cross-linked fibrin degradation product levels, measured with a fibrin-specific tag ELISA, appear to be markers specific for thrombolysis. Consequently, assays similar to the fibrin- specific tag ELISA may provide more accurate information when correlated with clinical endpoints.